CHICAGO – You wouldn’t know by watching, but the Bellator 288 co-main event was a challenge for Usman Nurmagomedov.
It certainly didn’t look that way as Nurmagomedov dominated Patricky Freire and cruised to a 50-45, 50-44, 50-44 unanimous decision win to claim the lightweight championship Friday at Wintrust Arena. For Nurmagomedov, the fight was one-way traffic for 25 minutes.
And therein lied the real (and perhaps only) challenge: It was the first time that the undefeated Nurmagomedov (16-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) went 25 minutes in the cage.
“Of course it was a big challenge for me, because it was my first five rounds,” Nurmagomedov told reporters, including MMA Junkie, afterward. “And I had some pressure before the fight, but all good. Alhamdulillah.”
He continued, “It wasn’t like pressure. It was more like I was nervous, because I expected a difficult fight.”
That’s not what Nurmagomedov got, though, as he controlled every facet of the fight both in the standup and on the mat. Nurmagomedv, 24, made it look easy – which has been the point and will continue to be every fight.
“We were working hard preparing for this fight,” Nurmagomedov said. “You guys will always say that no one is good for me, because we are working hard to prove that no other fighter will test me. Our work is to prove that we are good.”
Nurmagomedov will have his work cut out for him to stay champion. Next year, Bellator is expected to host a lightweight grand prix, meaning Nurmagomedov could be looking at having to defend his belt up to three times in a short period.
Nurmagomedov made it clear Friday that worrying about that is for a later date.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” he said. “I don’t know when the tournament will start, but for now I think me and my team deserve a little rest.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 288.