To say Khabib Nurmagomedov is eager to return to his hunt for the UFC lightweight title is an understatement of drastic proportions.
The Eagle is flat-out fired up to get back into the Octagon, and his excitement increases daily as the date and opponent for his return will soon be settled.
While a dance partner has yet to be named for Nurmagomedov, the undefeated Dagestan-born phenom already has the ideal opponent in mind. The 26-year-old grappling ace wants to step in against recently dethroned former champion Anthony Pettis in a fight he believes every fight fan wants to see become a reality.
In addition to Nurmagomedov thinking Showtime would be the perfect opponent for his return bout, he also knows the ideal date and event for the bout.
The UFC is set to return to Orlando, Florida, for UFC on Fox 17 on Dec. 19, and with the main event bout set to feature a 155-pound title clash between Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone, the Russian upstart is adamant that a bout with Pettis would not only make the card a perfect lightweight showcase, but his tilt with the Roufusport standout would steal the show.
"Anthony Pettis and I did have a conversation and we both want the fight," Nurmagomedov told Bleacher Report. "I gave [an] interview before and [said] we [met] in a bus, and we did, but I don't think it came out right. All the fighters there were going to a meeting and we all got on the bus to go there. Pettis and I sat down together and I asked him when he was going to come back. He told me the end of the year. I told him I could come back in October or November, but if the UFC [says], 'You come back in December and fight Anthony Pettis,' I can wait.
"I think everyone will agree with me that a fight between Pettis and I would be the biggest fight in the lightweight division right now. This fight would be bigger than Cowboy vs. RDA because RDA [smashed] him before. If the UFC put me and Pettis in the co-main event in Orlando in December, I believe that would be the real main event fight for the fans.
"I don't know what the UFC plans to do, but this is what I think the fans want."
While Nurmagomedov has been sidelined with a series of injuries that forced him to withdraw from his highly anticipated bout against Donald Cerrone at UFC 187, the surging lightweight talent has remained active in his recovery.
Nurmagomedov has been diligent in his efforts to rehabilitate his knee while taking great care not to push his body too far. His ultimate goal is to get his hands on the 155-pound crown, but he is well aware of how injury has hampered his ability to do so.
Even though certain elements in the upper tier of the division have changed in his absence, Nurmagomedov believes he's never been off of the radar with fight fans who support his push for a title shot.
Since his official UFC debut back in 2012, Nurmagomedov's support from the passionate fighting faithful has grown with each of his six showings inside the Octagon, and he's confident he will give the MMA community even more to get behind when his return to action comes to fruition.
"I think I have a lot of fans because I am a real fighter," Nurmagomedov said. "I am no fake. I'm an interesting fighter who came from Russia to compete in the U.S. and have smashed a lot of top guys. In my last UFC fight, I beat the guy who is now the lightweight champion. We will see what happens, but I think I will come back with a strong performance to end this year and next year I [will] take [the] belt.
"I was in the best shape of my life for my last fight with RDA, but after that fight, I got hurt and had two surgeries in a row back-to-back. I haven't fought in a year-and-a-half and have been in recovery. During that time, RDA kept going and he beat a lot of top guys.
"I think he's a different fighter now and I think a rematch between us would be a tougher fight, but I believe in myself to get the victory. I believe in my wrestling and pressure. I believe I can beat anyone in this division.
"I'm young, I'm strong and now I have good experience," he added. "I smashed RDA, and he has smashed all the top guys in the division. I'm very exciting in combat. I'm going to be very exciting when I come back, and I'm going to come back stronger than before."
While the Dagestani smashing machine has set his sights on a bout with Pettis, he'd love to get his hands on one fighter in particular: Nate Diaz.
The younger half of Stockton, California's brotherly duo and Nurmagomedov have quarreled for more than a year across social media platforms, and that beef recently came live and in living color at a recent World Series of Fighting event.
The two fighters crossed paths, and words and hands were exchanged in what broke out into a full-blown brawl that was caught on cameras and uploaded to YouTube. The Diaz brothers were banned from attending future WSOF events, and Nate took to Twitter to antagonize Nurmagomedov further in the aftermath.
While he knows a bout with Diaz wouldn't do much for his push toward the lightweight title, Nurmagomedov wouldn't miss out on the opportunity to get the former title challenger into the Octagon.
"If the UFC gives me that fight, I'm happy to do it because I want to smash this guy," Nurmagomedov said. "I want to take him down, smash his face with hard elbows and knock him out. I have to teach this guy respect.
"He started a fight with me at [WSOF] and there were a lot of women and children in the crowd. We are professional fighters and we are supposed to stay professional. I know sometimes you get emotional, but you have to stay professional.
"If someone wants to punch you and wants to smash you, then you have to protect yourself and that's why I [fought] with him at [the] show. In the arena, I told myself to stay calm and not to fight. I kept calm and professional, but the second time he started a fight, I went crazy too. It was me and my team and him and his, but after his team started running, a lot of police came. I didn't start the fight. He started it, but I have to protect myself.
"I'm a professional fighter," he added. "I'm a UFC fighter and I can kill someone in the street. I could do it easily if I had to, but we are supposed to be professional. The skills we know aren't supposed to be used that way, and that's why we have to always be professional because this is very dangerous. If the UFC gives me the chance to fight him inside the Octagon, I will do it because he needs to be taught a lesson."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.