Conor McGregor still has a Khabib Nurmagomedov rematch on his mind, though he acknowledges that the chances of it happening have greatly diminished.
The former UFC double champion said Thursday at the UFC 257 news conference that he considers there to be a great deal of unfinished business between himself and Nurmagomedov. But if Nurmagomedov wants to retire, McGregor said he’ll have no choice but to move forward.
Nurmagomedov’s father and head coach, Abdulmanap, died last summer due to complications from COVID-19. Nurmagomedov, the current UFC lightweight champion, announced his retirement following a title defense over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October. He has mostly stuck to the position that he has retired in interviews since then, though he has left a small window open for a return.
“It’s a tough business,” McGregor said. “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 beat McGregor via fourth-round submission at UFC 229 in October 2018. The lead-up to that fight was ugly, with McGregor getting arrested for throwing a dolly through a bus window in search of Nurmagomedov, who slapped McGregor teammate Artem Lobov days earlier. After Nurmagomedov’s win over McGregor, he climbed out of the Octagon and ignited a brawl with McGregor’s team. Inside the cage, McGregor was attacked by Nurmagomedov training partners. There were multiple suspensions handed down by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
McGregor and Nurmagomedov are in the same hotel this week in Abu Dhabi. McGregor fights Dustin Poirier in the UFC 257 main event Saturday. Nurmagomedov is in town to work the corner of his cousin Umar, who won Wednesday on the UFC Fight Night card. The two have not encountered each other, and UFC security is aware of the threat.
“What I will say is, as long as we fight again, there’ll be no issue,” McGregor said. “That’s it. If he continues to run, I’m not sure. We’ll see what happens.”
Nurmagomedov remains the UFC lightweight champion, but McGregor does not think that will last much longer.
“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,” McGregor 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.”