There’s big money to be made in another fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
UFC president Dana White knows it. Conor McGregor knows it.
Khabib also knows it. But he’s retired. Or so he says.
McGregor: ‘He fought the worst of me that night’
After multiple prods from White to lure Khabib out of retirement, McGregor joined the campaign in an interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani released on Sunday.
“I think he’s afraid to fight me,” McGregor told Helwani. “That’s for damn sure. And I don’t blame him. I fought the best of him on that night, he fought the worst of me on that night. He knows it, I know it, and his team knows it.”
The last time McGregor and Khabib fought in 2018 was a spectacle. Khabib submitted McGregor in a UFC 229 lightweight title bout that was filled with genuine animosity after an ugly pre-fight campaign tinged with racist and Islamophobic taunts from McGregor. It led do a post-fight brawl erupting in the cage involving members of fight teams.
White skipped the post-fight belt ceremony because of the brawl, a technicality McGregor cited with Helwani to claim that he’s the rightful champion.
“The unified title was never crowned,” McGregor told Helawani. “Khabib fled the cage and left me fighting with his family members in the cage. The post-fight ceremony never took place. I still feel like I’m the champion here.”
That’s an absurd argument, of course. And McGregor surely knows it. But anything to sell a fight — or in this case, bait Khabib for a potential fight.
White: Khabib open to fighting again
Sunday’s interview took place amid the promotion for UFC 257 next Saturday featuring McGregor fighting Dustin Poirier at the top of the card, a rematch of a 2014 fight that McGregor won via first-round TKO.
White said on Saturday that Khabib could be lured out retirement if the winner of next week’s headliner or the lightweight fight between Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler “do something spectacular.”
— UFC (@ufc) January 16, 2021
"If these guys could do something special, Khabib will fight them,” White said, citing a conversation with Khabib.
That’s a far cry from Khabib’s declaration of retirement after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October, where he cited a vow to his mother to not fight again in the aftermath of his father’s death.
But White’s been publicly and privately prodding him to fight at least once more with the chance to improve his perfect career record to 30-0. And if the price is right, it seems likely that he will. This is the fight, game, after all.
If McGregor comes out on top next Saturday as expected, the price will almost surely be right.
“I’m here or it,” McGregor said. “I’m ready for it.”
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