UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t completely opposed to the idea of a rematch with Conor McGregor. But if it ever happens, it’s going to be on his terms.
Nurmagomedov on Monday said if McGregor is able to defeat Dustin Poirier in a rematch on Jan. 23, he believes another fight with the Irish star is a possibility. But it depends on the weight class McGregor chooses.
“If he beats [Poirier] at 155 [pounds], it makes sense, but if they fight at 170, how can you fight at 170 and next fight you can fight at 155? They want to make everything easy,” the UFC lightweight champ said on the Real Quick With Mike Swick Podcast. “It you want to take the easy way, you never deserve the next title shot.”
Nurmagomedov, 32, is five days away from his third attempted title defense against interim champ Justin Gaethje, a matchup many insiders expect to be his most difficult. He is around a -300 favorite to win the fight, which takes place Saturday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Right now, the rematch between McGregor and Poirier is still not a sure thing. After trying to set up a charity MMA fight, both fighters have agreed on social media to meet in the octagon, but UFC President Dana White said contracts have not been signed. After giving the thumbs up, Poirier asked McGregor about the weight class; McGregor most recently competed in the octagon as a welterweight when he stopped Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.
McGregor also called to promote his rematch with Poirier at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, an idea White shot down early.
Negotiations between the former two-division champ and his promoter have rarely been easy. McGregor called out White for not putting him back to work earlier this year and released text messages he said were proof of the UFC’s “borderline criminal” inability to keep him active. White, in turn, has blasted McGregor for going public and retaliated by nixing a coaching spot opposite Nurmagomedov on The Ultimate Fighter 29.
The UFC lightweight champ reportedly balked at doing the reality show with McGregor, which would have served as a lead-in to a rematch. His team, meanwhile, have been quick to dismiss the possibility of a second fight. His longtime manager, Ali Abdelaziz, said the only chance of the two fighting again would be in the streets. Abdelaziz was a frequent target of McGregor prior to the Irish star’s blockbuster meeting with Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, which ended in an infamous brawl that suspended the rivals and several of their teammates.
On Monday, Nurmagomedov’s longtime teammate, former two-division champ and UFC commentator Daniel Cormier said on ESPN, “before, I thought, sure, say you don’t want to fight him, but then go beat the guy. I think you should, because you already won, you make a ton of money, it makes sense. But I just don’t know if he’s going to do it. He wants to focus on Justin Gaethje, and it’s just a lot.”
Nurmagomedov has also mused about retirement after achieving a 30-0 record, but he’s also entertained “something special” promised by the UFC in the future. That could be a meeting with former welterweight and middleweight champ and UFC Hall of Famer Georges St-Pierre, who has proposed a catchweight showdown.
Before he can entertain any plans, the Dagestan-born champ must first get past Gaethje. If McGregor is to get another shot at him, he said, his rival must not take any shortcuts.
“Remember, before I fought him, I told him, ‘I’m going to make you humble, and I’m going to put you in line,’” Nurmagomedov said. “Now, after two years, people understand my word. I’m going to put him in line, and I’m going to make the decision. If he fights 170, bye-bye.”