Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier seems indeed to be the next step for the UFC lightweight division.
Nurmagomedov, the reigning lightweight champion, said Saturday he was surprised by Poirier's victory over Interim Champion Max Holloway's title at UFC 236, adding that preliminary discussions had already begun for a unification match between him and Poirier for September, presumably at UFC 241 in Abu Dhabi.
"I think Dustin Poirier has done a very good performance," Nurmagomedov told ESPN +. "Honestly, before the fight, I thought Holloway was going to beat him. That's what I predict when we talk with fans, with my dad, with our team. But it impresses me. Dustin impressed me.
"I think he's got really good boxing, a lot better than before. With each fight, he gets stronger and better in boxing, on his feet. And I think it's worth [the] title show. I think that since he is already interim champion of UFC lightweight, I am a true lightweight champion, we must fight. And now, we are working on it. "
Nurmagomedov (27-0) is currently serving a nine-month suspension following his post-fight fight with members of Conor McGregor's team following his unilateral McGregor defeat at UFC 229 in October 2018.
Unbeaten sambo scholar, Nurmagomedov has fallen since the start of the promotion in 2012 in the UFC lightweight division, recording a perfect 11-0 record that includes victories over McGregor, Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza and Rafael dos Anjos, among others. His fight against McGregor at UFC 229 has shattered records as the best-selling pay-per-view in the history of mixed martial arts.
Poirier (25-5, 1 NC), meanwhile, has become a key force in the UFC lightweight division after a long and hard road to gold.
At UFC 236, the 30-year-old American won the Interim Lightweight title during his 22nd Octagon participation with his victory at the Holloway fight. Poirier will now participate in a four-game winning streak in his fight for unification of the title against Nurmagomedov, a series of impressive victories over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Holloway.
"For a long time, I am. He has a very good track record, "Nurmagomedov said of Poirier. "He has a good game on the ground, not bad. He has a good typing game. I have been for a long time. And against me? I think I have to mesh it, as I do with everyone. That's what I have to do. I respect him as a fighter, like a human, but when we go in the cage, I have to maul this guy. That's what I want. And for now, I'm focused on the month of September, five months before the fight, and I think it will be a very good fight with him. "