In the minds of many MMA fans, the most interesting possible future fight is between UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor and undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both fighters won in impressive fashion at UFC 205, and McGregor has never been the one to back down from a challenge. During his UFC 205 destruction of Michael Johnson, Khabib used his time to talk trash to Johnson during the fight, as well as demanding that Dana White give him a shot at Conor next. I like the showmanship! Conor went on to destroy Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title, a fight that Khabib was scheduled to have prior to injuries and scheduling giving McGregor the title shot. This sounds right up Conor’s alley, and exactly the sort of shit talking that he can get involved in to hype a future fight. There is a problem though; Conor isn’t taking Khabib’s bait. In fact, McGregor said that Nurmagomedov needs to prove himself more and that he ”isn’t on his level”. He also brings up the fact that Khabib has had a history of injuries keeping him out of fights and postponing ones scheduled. In Conor’s mind, he claims to need to see more consistency from the The Eagle in order to feel comfortable in investing in promotion for the fight. These are valid points, but Khabib record is 24-0 in MMA, and he won a gold medal in Sambo at the 2010 World Championship. I’d say that he is a legit badass and has earned a title shot after becoming healthy and dominating Johnson. The Russian also holds a victory over Rafael dos Anjos, the current #2 ranked UFC lightweight.
All of this seems out of character for McGregor, who has taken fights and opponents on short notice or with little promotion in the past. Plus, in Conor’s mind I’m sure no one is actually at his level, so that excuse doesn’t hold water. Maybe McGregor saw Rocky 4 recently? That’s a good enough reason for me to be reluctant to take a fight with a dangerous undefeated Russian. Nurmagomedov claims to have trained with a lion prior to his last fight, which is crazier than anything Conor has done or claimed to do promoting his brand. Khabib has proven he is game for the shit talk and extra promotional WWE-style tactics Conor has used to build his brand and reputation outside the octagon.
There are only 2 possible reasons for Conor’s unwillingness to take a fight against Khabib:
1. Conor is trying to build up more interest in Nurmagomedov by denying him the shot now, making more money for all involved.
Conor is the ultimate self promoter and his success and drawing power makes it so he can make big demands to the UFC, even wanting a part of the company as part of his latest terms to come back and fight. He just recently applied for a boxing license in California to tease a possible boxing matchup with Floyd Mayweather. It can’t happen right now for a variety of legal issues with his UFC contract, but another excuse to push off the fight with Khabib.
2. Conor knows it’s a bad matchup for him, and wants to duck the challenge as long as possible.
Conor knows his strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else. He is as sharp a fighter as we have ever seen when it comes to controlling his image and being able to manipulate the UFC, especially with the new ownership group in place. He knows another loss will slow his momentum, and more importantly take away any leverage that he had in acquiring the ownership stake and higher paydays he is looking for. It could be very similar to how Floyd ducked Manny Pacquiao for many years until he was convinced he could beat him at an older age.
I really hope this fight happens sometime in 2017. The verbal showdown between the two would be well worth the wait. If Khabib beats another top contender, then it will be more difficult for Conor to dodge the fight or delay it for more build up and money. Nurmagomedov needs to keep destroying opponents to give Dana White no choice but to agree to the fight. The Eagle is coming for McGregor whether he likes it or not!
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