Although Saturday’s UFC 242 main event will not take place in his native Dagestan, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is expected to enjoy a partisan reception when he clashes with Dustin Poirier at The Arena in Abu Dhabi.
The undefeated Nurmagomedov is the bookmaker’s favorite for the title clash, but Poirier’s coach Mike Brown is confident that underdog status will work in the favor of “The Diamond” on fight night.
With many underlining the dominance “The Eagle” has showcased throughout his career when it comes to wrestling, Brown highlighted how some of Poirier’s ATT teammates’ recent bouts have been against similar styled opponents.
“It’s a strong wrestling style with great conditioning, but we’ve seen similar styles in different weight classes, like Kyoji Horiguchi and Darrion Caldwell and Jorge Masvidal and Ben Askren. These are all very recent fights and all the fights were different, but it was that strong wrestling style that they were fighting,” Brown told MMA Fighting.
Brown agrees with Poirier’s decision to not get bogged down in Nurmagomedov’s skillset ahead of the championship showdown and insisted that Poirier must focus on his strengths to be successful.
“Of course, you’re going to want to stay out of some troublesome areas, but you don’t want to abandon what got you to the dance—you’ve got to get him to adjust to you. Of course you have to be ready for some of his strengths and you can get ready for that because you’re going to be working on your wrestling defense and your standups, but you don’t want to stray too far from what got you there. You be you and make him adjust to your game,” said Brown.
The former WEC featherweight champion believes that the partisan crowd at The Arena will only motivate Poirier.
“I really don’t think that stuff matters too much. At the end of the day two guys are going to step in a cage and it’s going to be locked. They’re going to be the ones fighting so the people in the crowd really don’t matter. In a weird kind of way for some fighters, I myself would like the feeling of being the underdog; it’s a bit motivating, it’s a bit challenging. It makes you fight even harder. There’s more pressure to be the guy who is the fan favorite. Everybody is there to see them, everybody expects them to win. There’s more pressure there than being on the other side of the coin where they’re against you and they don’t think much of you. Only good things can happen because Dustin is super talented and he’s as good as it gets.”
Brown insisted that Poirier is completely confident and pointed to his stamina as being one of his most important tools on Saturday night.
“He knows what he’s capable of. He’s confident in his abilities. He doesn’t need someone else to tell him how good he is. We know how good he is, so it won’t be a surprise to us. We know what he’s capable of and so does he, and that’s all that really matters. He’ll be confident and he’ll be able to go hard for 25 minutes. I don’t think a lot of guys have been able to do that [against Khabib] and I think it’s one of Dustin’s best attributes, his conditioning and his mental will.”