After becoming the first UFC fighter to hold belts in two weight divisions simultaneously, it looked like we weren’t going to see a lot of Conor McGregor in 2017. He announced at the post-fight press conference that his girlfriend was pregnant and he was taking some time off. How much time off? UFC president Dana White went so far as to estimate 10 months. But just last week McGregor seemed sick of sitting idle and told RTE Sports that he was ready to fight again once the holidays are over.
So who could McGregor fight next? If the UFC has it’s way, #1 lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov will finally get a shot at the lightweight title, and the fight could even go down in his home country of Russia.
“We’re focused very heavily on Russia right now,” White said during an interview with FOX5 New York. “First of all, there’s tons of talent coming out of Russia, and a lot of fans. There’s a fighter named Khabib who’s from Russia, and he’s insanely popular. The next fight could be Conor vs. Khabib.”
The UFC is so serious about Russia that White and new UFC owner Ari Emanuel flew there to speak directly with members of the country’s sports bureau, possibly laying the groundwork for a major event in a large venue.
But if the fight is going to happen, they’ll probably have to get back on a plane and go speak to McGregor in Ireland first. The brash fighter said the UFC would have to pony up some serious money to get him to fight again, and went so far as to imply he wanted ownership stake in the company. Since then, McGregor’s coach has stated the UFC hasn’t reached out to Conor to discuss business at all.
There’s also a question of whether fighting a high risk low reward fighter like Nurmagomedov is something McGregor is interested in. The man is always looking for the biggest name to fight, and Khabib is someone only serious MMA fans care about. He’s also struggled with injuries, fighting only three times in the past three years. Add to that his style of grinding wrestling, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of shiny fight McGregor would take … not without some serious incentives added. With the UFC so hot on Russia right now, they might be willing to sweeten the pot to make it happen.