“When you look at what makes sense, we’re at a place right now where Conor was saying going into the Khabib fight [at UFC 229] — he had lot of personal stuff,” White said in his postmatch news conference. “Some stuff [was] self-inflicted. He had injuries. He had all these things going on. He has been obsessed with getting that rematch because he knows he wasn’t 100 percent, right?
“When you look at this for Khabib, Khabib is 28-0. He’s undefeated. You start talking about this kid’s legacy. First of all, to go 28-0 in this sport? I don’t care who you’ve fought. It’s tough to do. Well, this guy is a world champion. After tonight, with how Khabib won the first time, and how famous Khabib has become since that first fight, we’re looking at Hagler-Hearns. We’re looking at Ali-Foreman, Ali-Frazier. This is a massive fight with global appeal. It’s the fight you make.”
Against Cerrone, McGregor used his shoulders, legs and kicks, landing 19 strikes and absorbing none as he became the first fighter with featherweight, lightweight and welterweight knockouts. “They think I’m toast …" he said days before the fight, “but I’m still the bread.”
The bout was McGregor’s first since he lost in a fourth-round submission, also at T-Mobile Arena, to Nurmagomedov. That was a turbulent time for both fighters, with McGregor revealing that he was underprepared for the fight because he had been drinking throughout training camp.
A rematch would be a reminder of the bad blood between the fighters and their camps in the lead-up to the 2018 fight. A war of words that included McGregor calling Nurmagomedov’s trainer “a terrorist” erupted into an attack by McGregor on a bus carrying UFC fighters and members of Nournagomedov’s entourage at Barclays Center in New York in April 2018. Two fighters on the UFC 223 undercard suffered minor injuries when McGregor pummeled their bus with a metal handcart and he pleaded no contest to a single count of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to anger management courses and community service.
Last March, McGregor said he was retiring and earlier in the month, had been charged with strong-arm robbery and criminal mischief, both felonies, in Miami after police alleged that the Irishman “stomped” on and took a man’s cellphone in an incident outside the Fontainebleau Hotel. Those charges were later dropped.
That wasn’t his first retirement announcement, either. In April 2016, he wrote that he had “decided to retire young,” one month after a loss to Nate Diaz. But he reversed his decision two days later and returned four months after that with a victory over Diaz at UFC 202. He then won the UFC lightweight title by beating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016.
McGregor has indicated that he’d like to fight the Russian Nurmagomedov (28-0 in MMA, 12-0 in UFC) on his own turf, in Moscow.
“It ain’t happening in Moscow. … Why do you think it’s not going to happen in Moscow?” White said. “There are many, many reasons why it won’t happen in Moscow. When I just rattled off the places we could make it, those are the places that make sense. You could either do it in the U.K.; New York City; Dallas, Texas stadium; the stadium [in Las Vegas]; T-Mobile — those are all the places that make sense.
“Realistically, Vegas is always the place that makes the most sense when you have a massive fight. Unfortunately, Khabib is not a big Vegas fan after what happened to him last time. I don’t know.”
The “last time” included a post-fight brawl after Nurmagomedov’s victory over McGregor in October 2018. Nurmagomedov was suspended nine months and McGregor six by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for their roles in the UFC 229 brawl that spiraled into a full-out fracas when Nurmagomedov jumped out of the octagon to fight one of the Irishman’s coaches. In addition, Nurmagomedov was fined $500,000, and McGregor $50,000 for attempting to follow Nurmagomedov out of the cage before engaging in a physical altercation with two of Nurmagomedov’s teammates.
Last month, Nurmagomedov downplayed the possibility of a rematch with McGregor — or a fight with Cerrone. “I think Cerrone lost seven or eight of his last 10 fights [six before Saturday]. The other one [McGregor] is going into his fourth year of no victories,” he said in a news conference. “It’s like the minor leagues — it doesn’t really matter who wins there.”
While the talk begins, MMA Junkie points out that each fighter has twice pulled out of a fight against the other. And Nurmagomedov had a message for White.
“I’m surprised that Dana White is saying that if Conor beats Cerrone and I beat Tony Ferguson [in April in Brooklyn], there will be a rematch,” he said. “I decide who I’m going to fight next. To fight me, [McGregor] has to he cut weight first, down to [lightweight], and win 10 fights in a row like I did. Then we’ll think about a rematch.”