Like it or not, Conor McGregor is walking back into mixed martial arts (MMA) and getting a crack at UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov this October at UFC 229 in Las Vegas.
It will mark the first time “Notorious” is stepping foot inside of the Octagon since he knocked out Eddie Alvarez back at UFC 205 to claim the 155-pound title. McGregor has been occupied with other wild adventures since then, including a boxing superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and an attack on a Brooklyn bus that landed the Irishman a felony charge.
With all of that out of the way, McGregor is now able to focus on his massive pay-per-view (PPV) clash with Khabib this October. According to McGregor’s Straight Blast Gym teammate, Bellator featherweight contender James Gallagher, the former UFC champion is back to training like he’s got something to prove.
“[Conor] looks better than ever,” Gallagher told MMA Fighting.
“He’s got that fire back inside of him. When you’re on the top of the world like he’s been for so long, you need to chill out for a little bit to get that hunger back. It’s hard to keep that hunger when you have everything that you’ve ever wanted.
“While he’s been away, Khabib has been creating some hype and getting himself in a position to fight Conor. There are a lot of people who see Khabib as a serious threat, so I think that’s given Conor a push to step up and say, ‘Nah, mate, I’m the champ around here — you’re not on my level.’ I think Conor’s going to show Khabib who’s boss and put him back in his box.”
While this lightweight title fight with Khabib is a massive moneymaker for McGregor, especially if the Las Vegas event pulls in over two million PPV buys, Gallagher insists that “Notorious” is taking this fight for the sport. Getting paid millions of dollars to step inside of the cage with an undefeated champion who has barely lost a round of competition is simply icing on the cake.
“Conor could wipe his ass every morning with a €500 note and it would be just a drop in the ocean for him, so the real part of this he’s interested in is the challenge,” said Gallagher. “You can buy all the cars and everything else, but you can’t buy a challenge like this. The thrill of competition is what is driving him.
“Conor has beaten everyone the UFC have put in front of him. He climbed to the top of a division and he won a belt, then he won another belt…he loves a challenge. People are saying that Khabib is the guy now and I know that Conor is thinking, ‘I’m going to show all of these people again’. He’s got a fire inside of him to show everyone who is the boss.”
If McGregor is able to starch Nurmagomedov like he has Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, and the aforementioned Eddie Alvarez, there’s no disputing that the Irishman is one of the best fighters in MMA history. He will have simply done too much in his UFC carrer to deny such a bid.
But just because McGregor has the fire back inside of him doesn’t mean UFC 229 will turn out his way. Khabib is a straight killer and already aiming to punish McGregor at every turn.
UFC 229 will take place on Oct. 6 live on PPV from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and also feature a co-main event clash between heavyweight title contenders Derrick Lewis and Alexander Volkov.