UFC

Khabib Nurmagomedov reveals his prediction for how he will beat Tony Ferguson

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia celebrates his KO victory over Michael Johnson of the United States (not pictured) in their lightweight bout during the UFC 205 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia celebrates his KO victory over Michael Johnson of the United States (not pictured) in their lightweight bout during the UFC 205 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Twenty four different opponents have tried to figure out a way to beat Khabib Nurmagomedov. All 24 have failed.

The next attempt will come Saturday night when Tony Ferguson puts his nine-fight win streak on the line against Nurmagomedov in the UFC 209 co-main event with the winner being crowned the interim lightweight champion.

In the weeks leading up to the fight, Ferguson has blasted Nurmagomedov from all sides but particularly taken aim at his wrestling and his striking when breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of his next opponent.

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Ferguson has gone as far as calling Nurmagomedov "a wet blanket" who can only try to outwrestle his opponents without much skill in other facets of his mixed martial arts game. Nurmagomedov can't help but laugh at Ferguson's claims. But he's also not going to refute the fact that if he wants to take an opponent to the mat, that's exactly where he's going to put them.

"I'm a wrestler, yes, but I'm not like regular wrestler, like American or other wrestling style. Try it. Try a couple of takedowns, if you cannot take him down, these guys are stopping. My style is a little bit different," Nurmagomedov explained. "I never stop. If I try to take you down, if I cannot take you down, it's OK, I'll keep going.

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"My style is make you tired and I think they worry about my style and don't want to look bad inside the cage. That's why I think a lot of people don't take this fight."

As much as Ferguson's claims might come off as insulting, Nurmagomedov actually views it as an excuse being made before the fight even begins.

Nurmagomedov will never apologize for having one of the highest takedown rates in UFC history -- the fourth highest all-time to be exact -- and he's not going to disguise his game plan to put Ferguson on the mat and make him suffer until he finally decides to finish the fight.

"He beat a lot of tough guys but last nine fights he fight only one time with a wrestling guy and he lose to Danny Castillo, I think he lost this fight but other guys it's all striking guys. He never has tough wrestling opponents and when he has wrestling opponents he all the time has problems with them," Nurmagomedov said.

"I watch all his fights. I know what I do and on March 4 when cage close, a lot of people say, 'Oh he beat Tony Ferguson now he needs Conor [McGregor].' Like before when I beat somebody, people talk about this is not his level he needs different opponent. When I fought Michael Johnson he talk about 'now we will see what happens.' Michael Johnson, I beat him but after the fight everybody is quiet. When I beat [Tony Ferguson] and I think I can beat him easily, people will understand who is the real champ."

The other part of Nurmagomedov's game that Ferguson has targeted in the weeks leading up to their fight is the perception that the No. 1 ranked contender has struggled whenever his fights stay on the feet.

For the briefest of moments at UFC 205, Michael Johnson seemed to rattle Nurmagomedov with a series of strikes before the Russian lightweight landed a takedown later in the opening round.

Nurmagomedov won't make excuses for getting caught by Johnson on the feet when they fought last November, but he's also not going to pretend that suddenly his striking game is subpar while conceding that Ferguson is the superior fighter if this matchup stay standing.

While Ferguson wants to point at the few punches Johnson landed, Nurmagomedov would prefer to look at the long list of strikers he faced and defeated soundly during his UFC career.

"What's interesting, all my amateur and my professional 24 fights, maybe three or four times guys catch me in the last 12 or 13 years. I have many fights and people still talk about my striking game but I don't know why," Nurmagomedov said. "Only Michael Johnson one time catch me but I fight with Rafael dos Anjos and other top guys like [Abel] Trujillo, [Gleison] Tibau, Pat Healy, a lot of top guys in the UFC. Outside of the UFC, I fight with a lot of high-level striking guys and nobody catches me.

"I can stand up with him. I can fight with him. I can wrestle with him. This is MMA. This is not just one sport like boxing or something. I think he's unpredictable and he's very dangerous, elbows, knees, push kicks, everything but when you have a MMA fight it's going to be different. When you have takedowns, slams, submissions, striking, everything, this is my game."

In the end, whether the fight plays out on the feet or on the ground, Nurmagomedov has no problem laying out his strategy and a final prediction for how he expects to put Ferguson away on Saturday night.

"My plan is make him tired, little bit talk with him and he understands who is who and after [I] finish him," Nurmagomedov said with confidence.

Given his track record, Nurmagomedov will look to make Ferguson No. 25 on that list of opponents who all said they had the perfect plan to beat him before coming up short.

Nurmagomedov meets Ferguson in the co-main event at UFC 209 with the prelims airing live on FS1 starting at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, March 4.