Tony Ferguson Should Expect ‘New’ Khabib Nurmagomedov At UFC 223, Says Coach

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s coach at American Kickboxing Academy, Javier Mendez, claims his fighter is ever-improving and will display his new skills against Tony Ferguson at UFC 223.

Ferguson and Nurmagomedov will clash for the UFC lightweight title on April 7 in Brooklyn, New York, in a highly-anticipated match-up. While Conor McGregor is still the official UFC lightweight champion, he is expected to be stripped of the title by UFC President Dana White by the time the title fight takes place due to his inactivity since winning the belt in November 2016.

The main event marks the fourth time the two lightweights, who have a combined 35-fight win streak, have been scheduled to meet each other in the octagon. Most recently, their fight was called off at UFC 209 in March last year after Nurmagomedov suffered from a botched weight cut.

Khabib Nurmagomedov Khabib Nurmagomedov dominated Edson Barboza at UFC 219 and is set to face Tony Ferguson next. Pictured: Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Since the setback, the unbeaten Russian underwent a new diet and returned at UFC 219 in December last year where he impressively defeated top-ranked contender Edson Barboza via unanimous decision. Despite Barboza’s highly-regarded striking credentials, they were no problem for Nurmagomedov who dominated him on the ground much like his other opponents in the past.

“I was not surprised [with the way Nurmagomedov defeated Barboza],” Mendez told Express Sport. “To be honest with you, I was kind of expecting him to do what he did. Not many other people were, but I was. Because I know how good he is.”

Next up for “The Eagle” is Ferguson, who is without a doubt his toughest opponent till date. “El Cucuy” defeated Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in September last year to win the interim lightweight title and extend his winning streak to 10, the fourth longest among active fighters. He was then expected to face McGregor in a title unification fight upon his return from the infamous “Money Fight” with Floyd Mayweather.

But with the Irishman only likely to return in September according to White, Ferguson will now face Nurmagomedov for the undisputed title, and Mendez claims the latter will be even better than when he defeated Barboza.

“He’s [Nurmagomedov] on point. And he’s actually better than he was last time when he prepared for Barboza,” Mendez added. “So people can expect a better Khabib than the Barboza fight. He will be better for this fight than the other fight.”

“Like I’ve said in many other interviews in the past, he’s always improving his game. His ground game has improved, but not by much as he’s pretty much a master on the ground. But his standup keeps improving leaps and bounds. So every time people see Khabib, it’s a new Khabib. So you will see a new Khabib on April 7,” he said.

UFC 223 takes place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on April 7. In addition to the main event, Rose Namajunas will defend her women’s strawweight title for the first time in a rematch against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

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