Irish fighter Conor McGregor may have been out of the cage for over a year, since he submitted in the fourth round against rival Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, but ‘The Notorious’ is set to return to the Octagon when he takes on Donald ‘The Cowboy’ Cerrone as the headline event of UFC 246. There won’t be many who fancy a bet on Donald Cerrone, as the American is very much the underdog going into the contest and all talk and media attention has been firmly focused on McGregor. The one question on everyone’s lips is will McGregor face ‘The Eagle’ Khabib again?
Since defending his UFC Lightweight Championship in a dominant performance over McGregor, the Russian unified his title by beating Dustin Poirier. He took on the interim lightweight champion in the main event at UFC 242 and won in the third round, via a rear-naked choke submission. He’s now scheduled to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. The two have been set to meet on a number of occasions in the past, with their first fight scheduled back in November 2015. In that instance, it was Khabib who pulled out due to injury and since, there have been a further three cancellations. The Eagle has a 100% winning record from 28 fights and if McGregor beats Cerrone and Khabib can get one over Ferguson, there’s no reason why the two can’t clash once more.
McGregor’s comeback trail begins in the welterweight category. Having previously held the titles of featherweight and lightweight champion, The Notorious Dubliner made his welterweight debut in March 2016. On that occasion, he lost to Nate Diaz – but the two had a rematch five months later, again at welterweight level and McGregor was victorious. He returned to the lightweight division, winning the title against Eddie Alvarez before his hiatus, which saw the Irishman lose his title, due to inactivity.
Cerrone too, has previously fought at welterweight level, making his debut against Alex Oliveira in February 2016. He has since returned to fight as a lightweight but has only won two of those four matches since dropping back down the weight categories.
Despite making the step-up for their upcoming bout on January 18th, McGregor would love another crack at the lightweight title – and recently sent Khabib a scathing personal message on his Instagram story. Accompanied by a video of McGregor during his last fight, he wrote “little scurrying rat I’m coming”. He had previously warned the Russian: “you can run but you cannot hide.”
Time ticking on
The upcoming fight between Ferguson and Khabib will finally put an end to over four years of speculation and anticipation and will surely provide the Russian with his toughest test to date. From there, well, who knows? While the Irish fighter outlined a plan for two fights in the lead up to a rematch with the Russian, The Eagle came out and said McGregor needs to win his next nine or 10 fights in a row in order to land a rematch.
At 31 years old, Khabib believes retirement is on the horizon. He recently told RT Sport: “Well, we don’t have a plan for when we’re going to finish but I do know it is not over the mountains, as they say. That time is very close.”
He continued: “I don’t want to think about the future, I still have to live to April, I still have to fight, I need to win. So, I don’t like to look too far ahead. Now we have an opponent, Tony Ferguson, a very serious opponent. And I think it’s necessary to have this fight then we’ll sit down and think about what’s next.”
Will we see the two touch gloves in the Octagon again? McGregor wants it and UFC President Dana White wants it. Watch this space.