At the UFC news conference on August 3, the crowd echoed a resounding boo when they found out Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor weren’t in attendance after a video package of the two fighters played.
But the crowd perked right up when UFC president Dana White confirmed the long-anticipated bout was finally done, and that the lightweight championship bout would headline UFC 229 in Las Vegas this October. It will be almost two years since McGregor has competed in the UFC, and will mark Nurmagomedov’s first title defense since becoming champion earlier this year.
McGregor had won the title from Eddie Alvarez before being stripped due to inactivity. But while he was content to do a boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather, the Russian grappling phenomenon that is Nurmagomedov continued his reign of dominance inside the Octagon.
Rising to 26-0 after defeating Al Iaquinta for the title, Nurmagomedov was originally supposed to face interim champion Tony Ferguson. But their cursed meeting fell through for a fourth time warranting a replacement. And in an unrelated incident the week before the fight, McGregor shocked the world by attacking the bus Nurmagomedov was riding.
Following a confrontation between Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s teammate Artem Lobov, McGregor stormed the parking area of the arena with dozens of men, throwing a steel dolly through the window. He didn’t get to Nurmagomedov, and, ironically, the scramble to find a replacement for Nurmagomedov was because McGregor had refused to defend his title.
In the end, all McGregor managed to do was cause two people who had done nothing to Lobov to miss work – both Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg were pulled from the UFC 223 card following injuries related to the broken bus window’s glass shards flying into their faces.
But McGregor may have done something else – he may have lit a fire under Nurmagomedov, who issued a stern callout afterwards, simply telling McGregor to tell him the location and they’d meet to fight.
Even without the intriguing backstory behind the fighters, their talents alone make the bout an interesting one. White spoke about it, saying: “This is a very important fight for both fighters. For Khabib, who is undefeated and who is looked at as one of the best fighters in the world, beating Conor is massive for him.”
McGregor rose to UFC superstardom by starching half-decade-champion Jose Aldo with one punch and blasting top-ranked Eddie Alvarez in his lightweight debut. But along the way, he built up a steady record of wins against the best of the best, including current featherweight champion Max Holloway, Chad Mendes, and Dustin Poirier.
Nurmagomedov’s record isn’t too bad either. The undefeated champ mauled Edson Barboza before his title win against Iaquinta. He’s also gotten wins over former champ Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson, and Gleison Tibau.
The fighters’ styles also contrast well. Nurmagomedov is a sambo expert who used to wrestle bears, whereas McGregor has two Irish homing-missiles at the end of his wrists. It will be a huge fight, and one fans have been waiting for a long time.