When Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov took their seats at the UFC 229 press conferences, the two brought more belts to the table with them than any WWE superstar or martial artist you could ever imagine. Only to add to the absurdity of the spectacle, McGregor brought with him a bottle of whisky he owns. Whether that whisky is worthwhile may be for another article (Of course it’s terrible) but it’s the reason we keep coming back for his fights. We come back for the glitz, the absurdity, the loud purple windowpane suits and the even louder mouths.
And still, that might not even be the best reason to watch; one that being billed as the biggest event in the sport’s history. These two are bitter rivals and that has more to do with McGregor’s extended absence from the octagon and breaking bus windows. Before we can get into that, let’s go back to the beginning at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in November 2016. That bout was then the biggest fight in UFC history when featherweight champion McGregor faced lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Nurmagomedov was in attendance and he brushed passed McGregor behind the scenes.UFC 229 seemed destined when they started yelling at each other and needing security to break them up before they even had a scheduled fight. McGregor promptly beat Alvarez to hold the rare distinction of being crowned the feather and lightweight champion.
If it wasn’t for Floyd Mayweather, this fight probably would have happened long ago. McGregor got paid in his brief bout with boxing after his defeat against Money Mayweather and then took a hiatus from the sport. The only thing McGregor paid more for in is time off than his cars were his legal bills. Everything came to a boiling point in Brooklyn in April 2018 at UFC 223. Max Holloway was set to take on Khabib for the 155 pound title. That’s when McGregor showed up with his entourage and surrounded a bus filled with many fighters for that night including Nurmagomedov. The fight was cancelled and later rescheduled including Holloway dropping out for health reasons. Al Iaquinta stepped up to fight Khabib and promptly lost. Nurmagomedov dominated earning the lightweight belt stripping it from McGregor.
McGregor may be the biggest name in this fight but Nurmagomedov may have the name more deserving of the spotlight. His unblemished record of 26-0 speaks for itself. To be fair though, the fights have always been on his terms. Now it’s time to put up, or shut up in this seemingly destined battle. Maybe it’s McGregor’s come up story from being on welfare to the face of the sport that makes him so intriguing. Maybe it’s beating one of the greatest in Jose Alda to dominate the featherweight division for years to come. Or maybe it’s just McGregor flips more birds than your local diner making sunny side up eggs. If he can beat Aldo after a decade of undefeated dominance, Nurmagomedov’s undefeated record won’t weigh on McGregor’s mind for a moment. Even in defeat, Mayweather’s undefeated record certainly didn’t slow down McGregor. The same applies here. Both fighters will be compensated handsomely.
This is the most vulnerable McGregor has ever been, not fighting in all of 2017 and most of 2018. While he has been clearing his name in court, he has been training that whole time. If he is in this for the money like he was against Mayweather, he will meet the same result as he did in that fight. If he fights to defend his lightweight title that was stripped, than he might have a shot. Nurmagomedov may be the perfect antithesis of McGregor’s persona though. While one dominates the headlines, the only thing Nurmagomedov practices more than his fighting is his Muslim faith. If anyone can silence McGregor, it’s Khabib. McGregor has a great knack for the knockout but Khabib’s innate ability to grapple could be the better counter punch.
While there’s reason to watch because of the legal drama, the pent up rivalry for over two years, the property damage, McGregor’s comeback to the octagon, come for the one of the best fights in UFC history. Both of these fighters may never get a better matchup in their entire careers.
Watch UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor on October 6,2018 live from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at 10:00 PM ET.