As Dana White works to secure Khabib Nurmagomedov's comeback to the Octagon, his longtime rival Conor McGregor is calling out the UFC lightweight champion.
McGregor sat down with ESPN's Ariel Helwani ahead of his UFC 257 bout with Dustin Poirier, saying he believes Khabib retired because he's afraid of a potential rematch.
"I think he's afraid to fight me, that's for damn sure. You know, and I don't blame him," McGregor said (3:30 mark). "I fought the best of him on that night; he fought the worst of me on that night. He knows it. I know it. His team knows it. I have the answer to destroy that man."
Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round of their anticipated UFC 229 fight, which ended in chaos as both fighters and their camps got into a brawl. Khabib and McGregor each served suspensions for their roles in the melee and have intermittently expressed a desire to renew their rivalry in the two-plus years since.
Khabib retired after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, citing the July death of his father. McGregor says he believes Nurmagomedov was motivated by fear of fighting him again.
"Yes, I would say so," McGregor said. "I think his hand was shown. He's not a true fighter, in my opinion. How could you walk away? There's so many great fights to be had, you know? Not only did he s--t on the boss, I think he pissed on the chips also. I think he showed his hand. But then at the same time, you know, there is family issues and it is what it is. So, all the best."
White met with Khabib last week in an attempt to lure him back for a 30th professional bout. The UFC president seems confident that Nurmagomedov would return if either of the UFC 257 co-main events is "special." Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker are set to fight in the other main draw Saturday night.
White said he and Khabib are set to discuss a return again next week.
"He's cornering on Wednesday and then he leaves," White told reporters. "He leaves and goes to Vegas. I'll have the fight and fly home on Sunday, and I'll see him again in Vegas. Those fights will have played out. He and I are going to hook up and go to dinner in Vegas and talk again. We'll make a decision. The one thing he did say is, 'I won't hold up the division.'"
McGregor, a heavy favorite against Poirier, seems to already be champing at the bit to prod Khabib into a rematch.
"I'm here for it. I'm ready for it. I would like it to. It's a what-have-you-done-for-me-
McGregor and Poirier will be fighting for a second time; McGregor won the first via TKO at UFC 178. Poirier lost to Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 last year, so it may take an impressive outing from either fighter to actually convince Khabib it's worth taking one more fight.
McGregor says he's confident he can land shots to defeat Poirier within 60 seconds, though he would "relish a war" if Poirier is able to withstand his planned opening onslaught.