Conor McGregor returns to the Octagon next Saturday January 23rd at UFC 257 against Dustin Poirier in a fight that many people feel should be for the UFC lightweight belt, given that current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov has officially retired. But unfortunately for Mac and Poirier, there’s still a lot of speculation surrounding Khabib’s status, and UFC president Dana White is still working hard at convincing the undefeated Dagestani fighter to come back.
A meeting with Khabib on Fight Island was supposed to give us clarity on the 155 pound title picture, but instead left everything in stasis. Khabib said he’d come back if something excited him at UFC 257. Not much of a commitment there, especially given his general unwillingness to rematch Conor McGregor.
During an interview with ESPN, McGregor talked about the UFC’s decision to let Nurmagomedov hold onto the lightweight belt.
“I was stripped of the featherweight belt before even getting an offer of a featherweight fight,” he said. “I barely even got the second belt in the Octagon in New York that time. It is what it is. I suppose Khabib, and the death of his father, they’re giving him the time and so on … I think that’s admirable, also.”
“I think the time is now, though. It’s well past. It should be for the belt. If it’s not, no problem. I’m looking for an active year, I’m looking to compete. And, you know, I am the champion. You know, the unified title was never crowned. It wasn’t crowned that time in October 2018. Khabib fled the cage and left me fighting with his family members in the cage. The post-fight ceremony never took place. So I still feel like I’m champion here and I’ll go in and prove that. I’ll prove that with my performances, and time will show. The cream always rises to the top and the world’s about to see it.”
McGregor made it clear he thought Khabib’s decision to retire had a lot to do with avoiding a rematch.
“I think he’s afraid to fight me, that’s for damn sure,” he said. “And I don’t blame him. I know exactly what to face. I fought the best of him on that night and he fought the worst of me that night. He knows it, I know it, his team knows it. I have the answer to destroy that man. He can pull the wool over people’s eyes only for so long. You know, it is what it is. I know there’s surrounding things regarding the family. If he’s retired then that’s it I wish him well, and it is what it is. But I am who I am and I’m at the top. Time will show.”
“I think his hand is showing he’s not a true fighter, in my opinion. I mean how could you retire? How could you walk away? There’s so many fights to be had. Think of (Nate) Diaz, (Tony) Ferguson, there’s (Charles) Oliveira, the rematch with me. I think it’s just preposterous to walk away. Not only did he piss on the bus, I think he pissed on the chips, also. I think he showed his hand, but then at the same time, there’s family issues. So it is what it is. All the best.”
In the end, “The Notorious” sounds eager to face Khabib again if possible but fine with things if it never comes together.
“I’m here for it. I’m ready for it. I would like it to,” McGregor said. “But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I wonder what he’s going to say. Like I said, he can only pull the wool over someone’s eyes for so long. Dana could have stripped the belt from him that night. All that was put into him for that event. The pay-per-view flopped. And then a retirement? How long will it last? It doesn’t last long in this business. It’s a ‘What have you done for me lately’ business. And the clock is ticking for sure. So we’ll see what happens.”