MMA journalist Gareth A Davies believes Conor McGregor’s return to the cage and return to lightweight in the January 23rd rematch with Dustin Poirier could be the catalyst for a chain of events that concludes with Khabib Nurmagomedov coming out of retirement to fight ‘Notorious’ once again.
Khabib, the lightweight champion, called it quits in the cage after submitting Justin Gaethje last month at UFC 254 to improve his perfect record to 29-0.
In the wake of his father and trainer, Abdulmanap, passing away in the summer, he said he was leaving the sport to fulfil a promise to his mother. In recent comments, he’s reaffirmed the decision and mentioned plans to focus on farming.
But Davies says the combination of cementing his legendary status and settling any simmering resentment with McGregor, might draw the Russian back into the UFC fray.
“The big one is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Can they get him back to fight Conor McGregor? I’m sure Dana White (The President of the UFC) is sending text messages to Khabib virtually every day. Because if Conor comes away with the W against Dustin Poirier, it sets us up for a huge fight, Khabib’s 30th, of course,” Davies told Sky Sports.
Davies believes public interest in the matchup might lead to a clamour for Khabib to return. And in turn, the fight could see MMA’s surging popularity soar even further. But, for Davies, bad blood remaining from the 2018 fight could be the greatest motivation for the Champion.
“It’s off the charts, those two fighting again. There isn’t in any greater animosity or resentment between two fighters in the world. We know what happened with the brawl after their first fight. Khabib won, but it wasn’t enough for him. We had people climbing over the walls of the Octagon and the melee afterwards,” Davies recalled.
“It is a massive fight and Conor McGregor is clearly up for doing it again. I really do think they’ll manage to persuade Khabib back.”
And if personal animosity doesn’t convince Khabib to renounce his retirement, Davies reckons his ego could be prodded to provoke a U-turn. Because Davies suggests for all his domination, just three title defences, leaves Khabib lagging in the pantheon of legends.
“I do think they’ll get him back because I don’t believe he is the GOAT. I think he’s got a lot more to prove. I think No 1 is Jon Jones. No 2 is Anderson Silva. No 3 is George St. Pierre. Let’s see Khabib go up to welterweight. Let’s see him go on a longer run as champion. Let’s see him beat some of the younger up-comers. I just think he’s got more to give. It’s an unblemished record, but I hope he comes back.”
While many MMA fans are no doubt rooting for Khabib’s return in the future, they can celebrate in the present with former two-weight world champion McGregor coming out of his latest retirement.
McGregor stopped Dustin Poirier in the first round of their first fight in 2014 and while the rematch may again be one-sided, Davies says MMA as a whole will benefit from the Irishman’s sparkle to kick-start 2021.
“The main thing here is rejoicing that Conor McGregor is back. I was there that night six years ago. He absolutely bamboozled and mesmerized Poirier. It was a brilliant performance from Conor in that stellar rise in the UFC that took him to being one of the great showmen in martial arts. He’s taken the sport to a whole new dimension, bringing a whole new fan to the sport.”