Ever since he tapped four times on Nurmagomedov’s forearm to signal his submission in the culmination of a prolonged blood-feud between the two UFC superstars more than two years ago, McGregor has been plotting a path to revenge.
Those plans took a considerable blow last October when an emotional Khabib retired in the cage immediately following his title defence against the dangerous American brawler Justin Gaethje, leaving McGregor without a clear path to what he insists will be a redemptive second match with the undefeated Nurmagomedov.
However, with Khabib’s future still unresolved amid talks with UFC boss Dana White aimed at tempting him to return for one final octagon assignment in pursuit of what would be a landmark 30-0 career ledger, Nurmagomedov has inserted further doubt into any potential comeback.
“I have so much to do that is planned… and fights are not in these plans,” Khabib told Russian media this week on “Fight Island”.
“This is what I have been doing all my life, and I will continue to train constantly as well. But if we talk about the fights, they are not part of my plans.“
Speaking at Thursday’s UFC 257 press conference, McGregor said that a decision must be made – either Khabib returns and fights him, or he steps away from the world title.
“We’ll get him,” McGregor said of the Russian champ. “I would make the case that that man is continuing to dodge this, the commitment of competing again.
“The title should be stripped. I’ll be interested to hear what the excuse is after the fight but I predict a title strip.”
Despite the lucrative financial possibilities of a rematch, the aftershocks of their rivalry from all those years ago are still being felt.
The UFC took measures to ensure that the two lightweight standouts didn’t cross paths in Abu Dhabi this week – although that plan came VERY close to failure – for fear of an impromptu brawl.
But McGregor says that as long as the two fight inside the cage once more, there will be no issues outside of it.
“All of those events were in 2018,” he said. “It’s now 2021. What I will say is, as long as we fight again, there’ll be no issue. That’s it. If he continues to run, I’m not sure. We’ll see what happens.”
UFC boss White was well-documented to have teased a concrete announcement on Nurmagomedov’s future on last Saturday’s UFC broadcast, but when the time came, that statement claimed Khabib is waiting to see something “spectacular” in the cage this weekend before making a definitive call.
McGregor, though, asserts that this is a cop-out. “I don’t really care. He did not say that – Dana said that,” McGregor declared.
“Let’s just get through the fight. There are plenty of challenges. It’s a tough business and there are things that 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 going to chase it if he doesn’t want it.
“I’ll keep my calm and move on, and that’s what I’m doing. I’ll show the world what’s what over time and that’s it.“