As Conor McGregor prepares to fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in a return bout seven years in the making, his focus remains on earning another shot at the UFC lightweight championship. The belt won’t be on the line Saturday night, but UFC president Dana White made it clear the future of the division will take center stage in the main event, featuring McGregor vs. Poirier, and the co-main event, featuring Dan Hooker against UFC newcomer Michael Chandler.
So when posed with the possibility that he may face a return to the lightweight title conversation that doesn’t include the retired current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, McGregor opened up about where he stands nearly three years removed from their first tilt.
“It’s a tough business,” McGregor said, per ESPN. “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.”
McGregor’s tone has changed drastically in the years since their first bout. McGregor was arrested for throwing a piece of equipment through a bus window in search of Nurmagomedov, who slapped McGregor’s teammate Artem Lobov in the days prior. After Nurmagomedov’s win over McGregor in 2018, a melee ensued that resulted in suspensions for both fighters.
Nurmagomedov went on to defend his title multiple times before his father passed away from COVID-related symptoms in the summer of 2020. The champ returned to the Octagon once more, announcing his retirement in October after successfully defending the belt against Justin Gaethje.
McGregor has retired and unretired (multiple times) in his quest to earn UFC gold yet again. And while he holds a more respectful tone this time around, McGregor made it clear that won’t necessarily continue if Nurmagomedov refuses to defend the belt.
“If he continues to run, I’m not sure. We’ll see what happens,” McGregor said. “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.”
UFC president Dana White should have plenty of answers following Saturday’s event, with at least five contenders currently vying for a title shot. As for McGregor, he seems to have plenty on his plate for the upcoming year, as he plans on being more active in UFC by pursuing another Khabib fight, and also believes he’s close to another foray into boxing against Manny Pacquiao later this year.