Abu Dhabi, September 6: Khabib Nurmagomedov is a "global icon" and his return to the Octagon can only be a good thing for UFC, according to Curtis Blaydes.
It has been 11 months since lightweight champion Nurmagomedov defeated fierce rival Conor McGregor with a fourth-round submission in Las Vegas on an ugly night for UFC.
The bad blood in the build-up spilled over into a post-bout brawl that landed fines and suspensions for Nurmagomedov and McGregor.
Nurmagomedov later apologised but suggested pre-fight comments from McGregor in which he "talked about my religion, talked about my country, talked about my father" were behind the unsavoury scenes.
This weekend, Nurmagomedov returns to the Octagon for a blockbuster bout with Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Adu Dhabi and fourth-ranked heavyweight Blaydes is excited for the 30-year-old's comeback.
"I think Khabib is a global icon, he's a star," Blaydes told Omnisport.
"He brings in the Russian audience, the European audience. Just for me, in general, he's a great wrestler and shows you can be a star in this game being predominantly a wrestler."
In Khabib's absence, Poirier scored a unanimous decision victory over Max Holloway to become the interim lightweight champion.
Poirier has gone undefeated in six straight fights and the number-one ranked lightweight in UFC is sure to be a tough challenge for Khabib, who is unbeaten in 27 MMA outings.
But Blaydes is tipping Khabib to emerge victorious on his return.
"I would lean towards Khabib, but they're both great," he added.
"Poirier put away Justin Gaethje, who's amazing in his own right. But, if I was a betting man, I'd put my money on Khabib."
UFC® 242: KHABIB vs. POIRIER coverage starts live on UFC FIGHT PASS, BT Sport 2 and BT Sport Box Office this Saturday at 3:00pm and continues exclusively live on BT Sport Box Office at 7:00pm. In India, the main card will be telecasted by Sony TEN 2 at 11.30 PM IST.