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Nassourdine Imavov on controversial Jared Cannonier stoppage at UFC Louisville: ‘It was the right decision’

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Nassourdine Imavov
Nassourdine Imavov | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Nassourdine Imavov doesn’t think there should be any controversy with his win over Jared Cannonier.

On Saturday, Imavov headlined UFC Louisville against Cannonier, scoring a fourth-round TKO victory, after hurting “The Killa Gorilla” with a right hand and follow-up shots. However, it was a controversial ending as Cannonier never was dropped and was in the act of punching back when referee Jason Herzog intervened. But Imavov says there shouldn’t be any issue with the stoppage.

“Absolutely not,” Imavov said through a translator in his post-fight press conference. “It’s the job of the referee to decide if a fighter is able to keep going or not. He took already a lot of damage. He would have taken even more if they fight continued. So I think it was the right decision to stop it.”

Up until the finish, Imavov and Cannonier were locked in a competitive, back-and-forth battle. Cannonier started strong early, but the momentum began to shift in the second round as Imavov got more comfortable with the range and timing. Ultimately, that set up the punch that led to the stoppage, and according to Imavov, that was the plan all along.

“It was not the game plan to start too fast,” Imavov said. “I do a lot of five round [fights] now. It’s not the same pace. In my opinion, I only lost the first round. The other round I started to dominate, at the beginning of the second round...

“It’s perfect. It was exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for a finish. I would be lying if I would say that an early stoppage wouldn’t [have been] better, but the thing is, it takes some time to finish someone. What I’m happy with is a lot of people critiqued my cardio, and in this fight I proved that my cardio is very good, finishing him in the fourth round.”

Controversy or not, the win is the biggest of Imavov’s career thus far. The 29-year-old French fighter will likely move into the top-five of the UFC’s middleweight division this week, putting him in the thick of title contention. And with the UFC heading back to Paris on Sept. 28, Imavov hopes his next fight will be on home soil, against an opponent who he already has history with.

Sean Strickland,” Imavov said when asked what he wants next. “He’s in front of me. We already fought at [light heavyweight]. I would like to take my revenge at [185 pounds]... Paris. UFC Paris. September.”

Imavov and Strickland previously fought in a light heavyweight contest at UFC Vegas 67, when Strickland stepped in to replace Kelvin Gastelum on just a few days’ notice. Strickland won the fight by unanimous decision, setting up his eventual middleweight title run. Imavov clearly hopes a win over Strickland would also propel him to a title shot in similar fashion, but whether that happens next or someone else gets the opportunity, “The Sniper” is confident he becomes champion before his career is over.

“What I know is I’m 28, I just did a dominating performance against one of the top [guys] in the division, and I’m not even at my best,” Imavov said. “I can even progress more. I’m already good enough to get the title, to get the belt. But the farther it’s going to be, the better I’m going to be.”

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