Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Al Iaquinta at UFC 223

MMA


NEW YORK — Khabib Nurmagomedov claimed the UFC’s lightweight title in dominant fashion Saturday, just two days after he was the target of a public attack by former champion Conor McGregor.

Despite one of the most surreal fight weeks in UFC history, Nurmagomedov (26-0) looked as composed as ever in a five-round decision win over Al Iaquinta. Judges scored the 155-pound title bout, which headlined UFC 223 inside Barclays Center, 50-43, 50-43 and 50-44.

In addition to crowning Nurmagomedov its official champion, the UFC has stripped McGregor of the title he won in November 2016.

McGregor was arrested on Thursday after he attacked a bus that was taking Nurmagomedov to a Brooklyn hotel. The Irish star has been charged with assault and criminal mischief. He posted a $50,000 bail on Friday.

“Al Iaquinta is the real gangster,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is not about chicken. Where is Conor. He’s going to fight a bus? I want to fight real guys.”

McGregor’s attack, which was apparently prompted by an altercation between one of his teammates and Nurmagomedov, was not the only potential distraction Nurmagomedov faced this week.

He was originally scheduled to face Tony Ferguson for the undisputed title, but Ferguson withdrew from the bout six days ago due to a knee injury.

Featherweight champion Max Holloway (19-3) stepped up in Ferguson’s place but was forced off the card Friday. The New York State Athletic Commission ruled him medically unfit to compete during his short-notice weight cut.

That opened the door for Long Island’s Iaquinta (13-4-2), who was scheduled to fight Paul Felder in a three-round bout at UFC 223. Iaquinta jumped at the chance to face Nurmagomedov, even though the Dagestani is known for a uniquely dominant grappling style.

“This has been the craziest time ever, yesterday we didn’t even know if we had a main event,” UFC president Dana White said after the fight.

Of the revolving door of opponents for Nurmagomedov, White said: “It is so mentally, physically, and emotionally draining to go through what this guy went through this week.”

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UFC president Dana White tells Brett Okamoto that Conor McGregor needs to settle his legal issues before they figure out what’s next for him with the promotion.

White said it is too early to say whether a McGregor-Nurmagomedov fight would be able to happen.

“Once he gets through his legal, uh, mess that he’s got going on, we’ll figure out if and what’s next,” White said of McGregor.

Iaquinta gave a solid effort Saturday, but he was never close to pulling the upset. Nurmagomedov took him down early in the opening two rounds and hammered him with punches on the floor.

In the third round, Nurmagomedov, who trains out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, chose to stand with Iaquinta, despite how easy the first two rounds had gone. He found Iaquinta with the jab at will and talked to him as he did.

“All my team is here, without my father,” Nurmagomedov said. “Everything is because of my father. Thank you father.

“I came [to U.S.] in 2012. [Coach] Javier Mendez teach me a lot of things. The mix of my father and Javier is incredible for me. AKA is the best team ever.”

Nurmagomedov couldn’t resist calling out McGregor afterward.

“You want to do something? Send me a location, a time and a place,” Nurmagomedov said. “I told you before I was going to make him humble. Now I’m going to change the game.”



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