The returning former double-champ Conor McGregor has a tough test ahead of him in a rematch with Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. But that hasn’t stopped anyone, quite frankly, from speculating about a rematch with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The pair first met in 2018 at UFC 229, a night that ended badly for all involved. McGregor lost the fight via submission in the fourth round. Khabib then made the dubious decision to jump out of the octagon and assault McGregor’s corner, leading to a brawl involving multiple parties from both teams.
Both fighters were suspended, with Khabib as the instigator that night getting the harsher deal, and vowing never to fight in Las Vegas again as a result. After returning from his suspension, Nurmagomedov would go on to defend his title against Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, announcing his retirement after Gaethje at UFC 254.
The decision was made following the loss of Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap, to COVID-19. Of course, Dana White has claimed that Khabib may not be done yet, making a big to-do about a non-announcement from the champ (who still officially is the champ) ahead of UFC 257, despite “The Eagle” claiming he is in fact done.
White’s promotion of a possible last bout for Nurmagomedov has floated the possibility of Khabib vs. McGregor 2 — which would no doubt be the biggest UFC event in history. But while McGregor is seeking a rematch with the Russian, he’s not about hound the champ for a shot.
“All of those events were 2018, it’s now 2021. As long as we fight again, there’s be no issue. If he continues to run, I’m not sure,” McGregor warned media members at the UFC 257 press conference on Thursday, when asked about sharing a hotel in Abu Dhabi with Khabib.
But later, McGregor sang a different tune. Asked about Khabib saying he wanted to see something special from the lightweights at UFC 257 in order to return, McGregor corrected by saying “He did not say that. Dana said that.”
“Let’s just get to the fight,” McGregor suggested. “All these men are up here [Poirier, Michael Chandler, Dan Hooker], there’s plenty of challenges. It’s a tough business. Things have gone on in [Khabib’s] personal life. I don’t wish him any harm. Like I said, it was in 2018, a lot of time has passed.”
And while “the world knows this fight is not over. This war is not over. The sport needs it to happen, the people need it to happen,” continued McGregor, “I’m not going to chase it, if he doesn’t want it. And that’s it. I’ll keep my calm and move on.”
That said, if Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn’t intended to fight again, the Irish star believes he and Poirier should be fighting for gold. “The title should be stripped, and we should be engaging in a title fight,” McGregor stated Thursday.
UFC 257 takes place this Saturday, January 23 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs live on PPV.