For the fifth time, UFC president Dana White has booked Nurmagomedov in a tilt with Tony Ferguson, this time slated to main event UFC 249 on April 18 for the lightweight crown. But should the fight fall through, as it has four other times, Conor McGregor will be next in line for the lightweight tilt fight, assuming he beats Donald Cerrone a little later this month.
“Conor wants to fight three times this year. He’s hoping that if he beats Cowboy, he can turn right around and fight Khabib, but that timing and math isn’t going to work out,” White said, per ESPN. “His thing is, I’ll fight Cowboy, I’ll beat Cowboy, and I’ll be ready to fight Khabib at 155 if anything happens, because we’re going into Khabib-Tony again. So Conor would be ready for that fight.”
While McGregor going against either guy would be a gigantic fight — maybe even bigger than Khabib-Ferguson — this would leave plenty of questions on how the former two-division champion earned a title fight at 155 pounds after a bout at 170 pounds. White’s response was simple, pointing to the history of bad blood between McGregor and Nurmagomedov, while taking lightweight contender Justin Gaethje to task for not accepting other fights.
“And Gaethje was on his way up, too. We’ve offered Gaethje a lot of fights that Gaethje hasn’t taken either. So Conor is in line next for this fight if he beats Cowboy,” White said.
McGregor last fought in the UFC since his 2018 loss to Nurmagomedov. After the fight, tempers erupted in a post-fight brawl that spilled over into the crowd. Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s bad blood never cooled and both were suspended for their respective roles in the melee. Gaethje, on the other hand, has won his last three consecutive fights, including a knockout victory over Cerrone in September.
McGregor will face off against Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246 on Jan. 18 from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.