UFC: Resurgent Conor McGregor ponders big-money Nurmagomedov rematch in Russia

Combat superstar Conor McGregor is never short of suitors to share an Octagon with him and he now has the pick of the litter, after his sensational win over Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone at UFC 246 on Sunday (NZ time).

In his first bout in almost 16 months, the Irishman unleashed a 40-second onslaught against Cerrone to re-establish himself as the promotional figurehead and unlock a myriad of prospective opponents.

And while several big-money fights lie on the table for McGregor, the allure of reigniting his rivalry with Khabib Nurmagomedov, avenging his title loss and regaining his lightweight belt would be difficult to ignore.

The undefeated Russian grappler submitted McGregor in the fourth round of their October 2018 bout, which exploded into post-fight bedlam, when Nurmagomedov leaped out of the cage to attack members of his rival's team. 

That followed McGregor's attack on a bus carrying Nurmagomedov, after a press conference in Brooklyn, for which the Irishman was later arrested.

The beef is very real and the 30-year-old admitted there has been no love lost between the two.

"It's got very personal with that man and his team," McGregor said, during his post-fight media conference.

"We have a particular skillset, myself and that man. He holds on to the legs and all, I come for it. 

"I’ll be excited to get that one back."

McGregor and Khabib square off before their fight at UFC 229.
McGregor and Khabib square off before their fight at UFC 229. Photo credit: Getty

He insisted he'd even be willing to travel to Nurmagomedov's own backyard to do battle.

"There’s a lot of revenue in Russia," McGregor said. "I love Russia, I love the Russian people. 

"I went to Moscow recently and they're such a great nation. It would be like something out of a 'Rocky' movie, you know what I mean, so I'd be very eager to do that. 

"I want to create spectacles for the people - that's one hell of a spectacle."

But McGregor is eager to stay active and fighting Nurmagomedov next would mean waiting on the outcome of the Russian's title defence against Tony Ferguson in April. 

"The 'who' doesn’t matter for me now," he says. "I'm looking at dates now. 

"I know March was there. I'm going to have a look at a calendar and see where we're at… I'll be ready." 

Surging welterweight and 'BMF' champion Jorge Masvidal is one likely option to bridge that gap, as is a trilogy fight against Nate Diaz... even a bout against Ferguson, should he upset Nurmagomedov. 

"Of course [I would fight Masvidal], let’s see what happens," McGregor said. "I'd like to scoop up... that's not a great belt is it, but I'll still take it, add it to the list.

"Tony's another interesting foe for me… Tony's hittable, but he's awkward and he's rangy, you know what I mean? 

"So, anything can happen. We'll see what happens."

While McGregor was generally non-committal, UFC president Dana White left no doubt about who he wants his golden boy to take on next.

"[Nurmagomedov] is a massive fight with global appeal. It's the fight that you make.

"It's the fight that makes sense. It's the fight for the 155-pound title.

"Khabib is 28-0, he's undefeated and you start talking about this kid's legacy. First of all, to 28-0 in this sport, I don't care who you fought, it's tough to do. 

"Well, this guy's a world champion. After tonight, and with how Khabib won the fight the first time and how famous Khabib has become since that first fight, we're looking at [Marvin] Hagler-[Tommy] Hearns. [Muhammad] Ali-[George] Foreman. Ali-[Joe] Frazier.

White believes a rematch with Nurmagomedov has the potential to surpass the 4.3 million pay-per-view buys - the second-highest in history - that McGregor's boxing bout with the great Floyd Mayweather earned back in 2017. 

"I'm telling you right now, Khabib versus Conor is the biggest fight in the company and the sport’s history, but I think it might rival Conor and Floyd [Mayweather]."

Nurmagomedov has been outspokenly reluctant to grant McGregor a rematch, saying the Irishman would need to first earn way back to the belt.

White brushed those statements aside. If the fight with McGregor was on the table, he believes there's no way Nurmagomedov would pass it up.

"The reality is Khabib has never turned down a fight - ever," White said. 

"Khabib doesn't turn down fights, that's not his style. He hates Conor McGregor and Conor McGregor hates him."

Mayweather also put his name in the hat, tweeting a fake promotional advert for a rematch with McGregor. Predictably, McGregor wouldn't rule it out.

"He's a funny man, that Floyd," McGregor laughed. "We'll see what happens.  

"The discussions are always ongoing, they never stop. You know Floyd is going through money fast. 

"He's far from retired and that rematch will happen at some stage."