NEW YORK • Two days after getting into Conor McGregor's head leading to his meltdown, Khabib Nurmagomedov took the prized possession of the self-professed "face of the fight game" - his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight belt.
Nurmagomedov battled his way to a unanimous-decision victory over Al Iaquinta in their lightweight clash at UFC 223 to become Russia's first undisputed UFC champion at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn on Saturday.
McGregor, who was stripped of the title he never defended by UFC president Dana White, was released on US$50,000 (S$65,759) bail on Friday after being charged in a New York court with assault and criminal mischief, stemming from his part in an attack on a bus ferrying rival Nurmagomedov a day before.
And the animosity between the pair reached fever pitch after Nurmagomedov, in a post-fight interview, called the Irishman a "chicken" and a "fake champion".
"I want to pay tribute to my opponent and his team, Iaquinta is a real Brooklyn gangster, he is not a chicken, he comes here, where is Conor? He wants to fight with bus, I want to fight with real gangsters," he said.
"Now, only one champion. No more fake champions. No more champion who never defended his title or something like this. Now the UFC has a champion and this champion wants to defend his title."
I'M THE 'REAL' CHAMP
He wants to fight with bus, I want to fight with real gangsters...
No more champion who never defended his title or something like this. Now the UFC has a champion and this champion wants to defend his title.
KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV, in snide remarks on Conor McGregor, who was charged and released on bail relating to an attack on a bus ferrying the Russian.
Nurmagomedov also called out fellow mixed martial arts fighter Georges St-Pierre - who is currently out of action with colitis.
"But now, I want to fight with Georges St-Pierre in New York. Madison Square Garden," he added.
McGregor's actions had cast a shadow over UFC 223, resulting in the cancellation of three fights.
The main event was also beset with issues after Nurmagomedov's original opponent Tony Ferguson had to pull out a week ago due to a knee injury, while his replacement Max Holloway was withdrawn for medical reasons following his weight cut on Friday.
Iaquinta agreed to take the fight on a last-minute notice and Nurmagomedov showed his hand early in the octagon, dominating the 30-year-old on the ground.
His American opponent, however, began to thwart the undefeated Nurmagomedov's takedowns after two punishing rounds.
The 29-year-old looked clumsy in the striking exchanges as Iaquinta found success with his counter right hand, and it was not until the final round that Nurmagomedov got the action back on the mat.
After five gruelling and mostly one-sided rounds, the judges gave Nurmagomedov victory by a huge points margin as he improved his record to 26-0.
In the women's strawweight title bout, American Rose Namajunas won a unanimous-decision victory over Joanna Jedrzejczyk to retain the belt she won via knockout when the two met in November.