Anticipation continues to build around this Saturday’s showdown between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, but so, too, does the uneasiness.
There’s nothing right now to suggest the fight won’t happen, but McGregor’s camp has acknowledged there is some concern over Nurmagomedov’s ability to stay healthy and make weight — something that’s been an issue in the past for the undefeated Russian.
“It could be a concern, yeah,” McGregor’s striking coach, Owen Roddy, said on a recent episode of MMAFighting.com’s Eurobash podcast. “It has happened before. Don’t focus on what is out of your control, you can only focus on what you have control over.”
Nurmagomedov has pulled out of several fights since joining UFC in 2012, so it would be naive to think the same can’t happen this week. This begs the question: What would McGregor do if Nurmagomedov missed weight?
Well, Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis currently are scheduled to fight in the co-main event Saturday, and McGregor sounds willing to square off with either competitor should that be presented to him as a potential replacement fight.
“I know Pettis and Ferguson is in the co-main. Originally, about a month or two ago when that fight got announced for the co-main, I was like, ‘Man, if Khabib bottles this fight, like he has bottled many fights before … if he bottles this one I don’t think … you know … f— those other two,’ ” McGregor told The Mac Life, per MMAFighting.com. “No disrespect to those other two … I don’t think I give a f— about those other two to step in and (fight). I think I probably would have just disappeared back into the shadows and got that man (Nurmagomedov) somewhere else outside of here.
“Now that I’m here, I’m back and I’m close, if he didn’t show up. I think I would take a fight against either of those.”
Of course, a fight between McGregor and either Ferguson or Pettis wouldn’t hold the same appeal as The Notorious’ currently scheduled UFC lightweight title fight with Nurmagomedov. Not only is Nurmagomedov undefeated, with a contrasting fighting style. But there also seems to be a genuine hatred between the two, especially on the heels of McGregor and his entourage attacking a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and other UFC fighters in April.
McGregor obviously must remain focused on Nurmagomedov for the time being, or else he could fall victim to looking past The Eagle. The former two-division champion admits he’s already plotting his next move after Saturday’s fight, though, and some big-money brawls could be in store as part of the six-fight contract McGregor recently signed with UFC.
“I’m already mapping out what’s happening next in my head,” McGregor told The Mac Life, per MMAFighting.com. “I know Dustin (Poirier) and Nate (Diaz) (are) competing. I know the 170-pound belt has also just been defended and I know Tyron (Woodley), the current welterweight champion, is itching for that one — like they all f—— are. I know Georges (St-Pierre) is test cutting to 155. I know everyone is around looking for it. I’m here, let’s see what happens next.”
Let’s just hope McGregor’s next move comes after the fight against Nurmagomedov, because the rivalry has become too compelling for the score to not be settled inside the octagon.
Thumbnail photo via Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports Images