Conor McGregor has fervently sought a rematch with heated rival Khabib Nurmagomedov. But when the Russian champions demand something “spectacular” this weekend to lure him out of retirement, McGregor faces a crucial moment.

For a fighter who declares himself a “Mystic Mac”, it is believed that Conor McGregor does not appreciate his fortune-telling predictions being wrong.

His 2018 title challenge against Khabib Nurmagomedov, a fight that emerged from heated personal rivalry and criminal charges in a parking lot in Brooklyn, certainly did not go into the script.

McGregor predicted, as he is used to, that his infamous left hand, Khabib, would give the same result as many before him: unconsciousness, or at least the inability to move on.

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In reality, it was the Irishman who was dropped by a Khabib and summarized in the fourth round. The pre-fight rancor was more than surpassed by the actions of Nurmagomedov and members of his team, marking the UFC 229 main event as one of the most notorious in more than a quarter of a century of corporate history.

While the incident initially left a bad taste in the mouth of UFC President Dana White, it was quickly replaced with the promise of dirty shine. In mixed martial arts, there is no bigger fight possible than a McGregor-Khahib rematch, and everyone involved knows it.

However, Khabib seems happy to only vaguely address the topic of his future. Dana White, who is still technically retired, quoted him as saying that if someone performed “spectacularly” in this weekend’s easy fights, he could be confident that he would return.

It was a move that some say was primarily aimed at McGregor – a kind of “Do you want this? Prove it” gesture.

Perhaps the trump card up Khabib’s sleeve is that he has enabled himself to be the price. McGregor is fighting along with the three other fighters involved in the main and co-main events this weekend, not just for the sake of competition. It won’t just be for their combat purses either.

In McGregor’s case, the opportunity to play Nurmagomedov again is far more appealing than the battle exchange he will receive for his efforts this Saturday.

He made his money, the Forbes Rich List assures us that. He made his legacy, which is reflected in his pay-per-view numbers.

Instead, the Dubliner is motivated by good old-fashioned vengeance – the same overwhelming emotion he had when he called for the UFC to “run back” after surprisingly losing to Nate Diaz in early 2016.

A few months later, McGregor won the sequel.

That’s why this weekend’s fight against Dustin Poirier is so important to McGregor. He has promised that it might be possible to defeat the dangerous Poirier in just 60 seconds, but has also suggested that he would welcome a long, drawn-out “war” between the two men.

It remains to be seen which of these two options Khabib might possibly prefer, but it’s interesting to see what impact even a retired Khabib Nurmagomedov can have on the pinnacle of the UFC lightweight frame.

If he wants the rematch, McGregor may have to dance to Khabib’s music – and when did we ever say such a thing about the fighter best known for giving his own shots?

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