Conor McGregor Wants UFC Rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov: 'The War Is Not Over'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2021

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2018, file photo, Conor McGregor, left, fights Khabib Nurmagomedov are separated during a UFC 229 mixed martial arts bout in Las Vegas. Nurmagomedov was fined $500,000 and suspended for nine months for a brawl inside and outside the octagon after his fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 229. McGregor was fined $50,000 and suspended for six months.  The suspensions for both fighters are retroactive to Oct. 6. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
John Locher/Associated Press

Conor McGregor said Thursday he wants a rematch with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov after losing their first meeting by submission in October 2018.

McGregor, who's set to face Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 257 on Saturday night, discussed his outlook and said he'll let Khabib decide whether they ever face off again:

"It's a tough business. Things have gone on in his personal life. I don't wish him any harm. Like I said, it was in 2018. A lot of time has passed. 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. I'm not gonna chase it if he doesn't want it. And that's it. I'll keep my calm and move on. And that's what I'm doing. I'm back here in the 155-pound division. I'll show the world what's what over time."

Nurmagomedov entered retirement after his successful title defense against Justin Gaethje in October, which moved his career record to 29-0. It marked the first fight since the death of his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who also served as his coach.

It may be a short-lived departure from MMA, though. UFC President Dana White said Khabib will be watching the two lightweight fights closely—McGregor vs. Poirier and Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler—to decide whether to come back and defend the belt.

"If these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them," White said.

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McGregor explained he believes the championship should be stripped if Khabib doesn't return after watching Saturday's card.

"I would make the case if that man is continuing to dodge this and dodge the commitment of competing again, the title should be stripped and [Poirier and I] should be engaging in a title fight," he said. "But I'm sure it will happen after this bout. I'm interested to hear the excuses or what will be said after the fight. But I predict a title strip."

In terms of mainstream attention, the best outcome for the UFC would be a dominant performance by McGregor on Saturday followed by Khabib agreeing to end his retirement for a rematch.

The Irish superstar's loss in the first meeting came after a nearly two-year MMA hiatus, with most of that time spent preparing for a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr., which he lost by 10th-round TKO.

McGregor has only fought once since the Khabib defeat, a January 2020 win over Donald Cerrone, but throughout the preparations for the Poirier clash he's sounded far more committed to a more consistent schedule moving forward.

The lightweight division will receive more clarity after Saturday's card and Nurmagomedov's decision about whether to return is finalized.