As big as Conor McGregor’s return at UFC 246 was last night, everyone understood that it was just a springboard onto bigger things. Now that McGregor has proven he’s still got what it takes with a scorcher of a 40-second knockout of Donald Cerrone, it’s time to really hit the gas on planning what’s next. And while McGregor himself has made it clear that he has all the options in the world, UFC President Dana White made it clear at the UFC 246 post fight press conference that only one fight makes sense.
And it ain’t Conor vs. Jorge Masvidal.
”Listen, every time there’s someone out there fun ... there’s always someone fun that can match up,” White said. “When you look at what makes sense, we’re in a place where Conor has said going into the Khabib fight he had a lot of personal stuff, injuries, all these things going on. And he’s been obsessed with getting that rematch cuz he knows he wasn’t 100 percent.
”And when you look at this for Khabib, Khabib is 28-0, he’s undefeated,” he continued. “You start talking about this kid’s legacy - first of all, to go 28-0 in this sport, I don’t care who you fought, it’s tough to do. This kid’s a world champion. And after tonight, with how Khabib won the first time and how famous Khabib has become since that first fight, we’re looking at Haggler / Hearns. Ali / Foreman, Ali / Fraser. This is a massive fight with global appeal. It’s the fight that you make. It’s the fight that makes sense. It’s for the 155 pound title.”
”If Conor and Masvidal fight, neither one of them even has a title although Conor does want his BMF title. He doesn’t have a world championship. So Khabib’s the fight to make. It’s huge for Khabib’s legacy too. If he beats Conor McGregor, then he beats Tony Ferguson, then he beats Conor McGregor again, this is how this kid retires at 30 something and 0 and he’s beaten all the best.”
On top of all the legacy stuff, it doesn’t hurt that it’s the biggest money fight as well.
”I’ll bet it does more [than 3 million],” White declared. “I’m telling you right now Khabib vs. Conor is the biggest fight in the company ... in the sport’s history. But I think it might rival Conor and Floyd.”
As far as McGregor’s initial statements about wanting to stay active and fighting more frequently, which doesn’t jibe with waiting until autumn for Khabib’s schedule to clear.
”There’s a lot of different things that make sense that you could do,” White said. “I gotta see what he wants to do. I know he wants this fight and I think he’s willing to wait to get it. So we’ll see. Listen, do I want Conor to fight three more times this year? Sure. But you gotta do what makes sense, too. And I just really think the Khabib vs. Conor fight is bigger. For both of their legacies and obviously for the sport.”
”I think the Khabib Conor fight could be done anywhere,” he said when asked about a location. “It could be done in a stadium somewhere, could be done in Madison Square Garden. Dallas Texas Stadium. The O2. We could do that fight anywhere. So we need to sit down and look at what makes the most sense.”
Not on White’s list: McGregor’s preferred choice of Moscow.
”It ain’t happening in Moscow,” he said flatly. “Why do you think? There are many reasons why it ain’t gonna happen in Moscow. Realistically, Vegas is always the place that makes the most sense when you have a massive fight. But unfortunately, Khabib is not the biggest Vegas fan after what happened to him last time. So I dunno.”
White isn’t worried about getting Nurmagomedov to accept the rematch with McGregor either, even though Khabib has been adamant in interviews that he isn’t interested.
”The reality is Khabib has never turned down a fight ever,” White said. “Khabib doesn’t turn down fights. That’s just not his style. He hates Conor McGregor. And Conor McGregor hates him. So whenever you talk about one to the other, that’s the kind of response you’re going to get.”
The only thing that could derail McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov as far as White is concerned? Tony Ferguson beating Khabib in April.
”Conor wants that belt back,” White finished. “He’s going to fight whoever wins.”
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