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Conor McGregor eyes Nurmagomedov rematch before UFC 257 return

Conor McGregor has told Khabib Nurmagomedov “the world knows this war is not over” as he hinted at a future confrontation if his long-standing rival avoids a rematch.

The pair’s storied grudge escalated when Nurmagomedov retained his UFC lightweight title by forcing McGregor to tap in the fourth round of their October 2018 bout, after which a post-fight melee involving both combatants ensued. McGregor has made it known he would relish a chance to avenge the loss, but Nurmagomedov announced his mixed martial arts retirement last October after extending his perfect professional record to 29-0 by defeating Justin Gaethje.

McGregor returns to the octagon after a 12-month absence to take on Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 this weekend, but the Irishman turned his attention to Nurmagomedov when asked if the rivalry had cooled. “All of those events were in 2018, it’s now 2021,” McGregor told a press conference. “What I will say as long as we fight again there will be no issue, that’s it. If he continues to run then I’m not sure, we’ll see what happens.”

In bowing out of the sport, Nurmagomedov revealed he had promised his mother he would not continue to fight without his father, coach and mentor Abdulmanap, who died last July after complications arising from contracting coronavirus. However, the UFC president Dana White has held talks with Nurmagomedov and disclosed the Russian could make a comeback if he sees “something spectacular” between McGregor and Poirier in their 155lb bout at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s a tough business, things have gone on in his personal life, I don’t wish any harm, it was 2018, a lot of time has passed,” McGregor added. “The world knows 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. That’s what I’m doing, I’m back here at the 155lb division, I’ll show the world what’s what over time and that’s it. It begins against Dustin Poirier.”

Nurmagomedov remains the lightweight champion despite retiring, leading McGregor to add: “We’ll get him … If he continues to dodge his commitment to fighting, the title should be stripped. I predict a title strip.”

There was no animosity between McGregor and Poirier before the rematch of their September 2014 bout, which the Dubliner won. The duo shook hands before the press conference and twice more at the head-to-head. Indeed, McGregor promised to give his opponent a bottle of his own brand of whiskey after the fight, while Poirier intends to return the favour by presenting the former two-weight UFC champion with his signature hot sauce.

This will be McGregor‘s first fight since stopping Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds in January last year – as he extended his record to 22-4 in MMA – and only his second since the loss to Nurmagomedov, who beat Poirier by submission in September 2019. Poirier (26-6) put together an impressive streak before coming a cropper against Nurmagomedov and rebounded from the setback by beating Dan Hooker by decision last June.

“I’m very happy to be here,” McGregor added. “Dustin has put on an incredible run since our last fight, it’s been a long time coming. Yes, I did get the win over him the first time but he’s rose right up and he’s back up there at the top of the division, so I’m excited to compete with him again.”

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