Max Holloway never crossed Khabib Nurmagomedov’s mind as UFC 223 replacement opponent

To say it’s been a whirlwind 24 hours-plus for Khabib Nurmagomedov would be an understatement.

The undefeated Dagestan fighter was all set to finally – finally – fight longtime rival Tony Ferguson for the undisputed lightweight title at UFC 223. And then it happened, on April Fool’s Day no less: Their booking was called off for the fourth time after Ferguson was forced to pull out with an injury suffered in a freak accident late last week.

Enter featherweight champion Max Holloway, who was announced as Ferguson’s replacement on just six days’ notice. And now Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) and Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) will square off for the 155-pound title in Saturday’s main event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., which airs on pay-per-view.

Nurmagomedov is grateful he’s still competing for the title belt at UFC 223, because that’s what’s most important to him.

“Please stop giving me regular fights,” Holloway said today on “The MMA Hour.” “Because I deserve to fight for the title. … Now my time is coming. I need to fight for the title.”

With that in mind, after digesting the news of Ferguson’s withdrawal, Nurmagomedov immediately thought about not-yet-stripped lightweight champion Conor McGregor and conveyed that

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