Conor McGregor insists the war is not over yet.
Before his rematch with Dustin Poirier at the main UFC 257 event in Abu Dhabi, the former lightweight champion has declared that he is in the best shape of his career. He predicted a round of 16 on Saturday, more than six years after grazing Poirier with his left hand and finishing him 106 seconds into the fight.
McGregor doesn’t overlook Poirier, but he said his goal is to return to the top of the division – a climax that could go through his arch-nemesis Khabib Nurmagomedov – and a belt that won’t be at stake in Saturday’s easy fight.
Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after beating Justin Gaethje in his easy title defense in October after beating Justin Gaethje in the second round. UFC President Dana White has since courted the current division champion to persuade him to return in what could mean a lucrative rematch.
While McGregor’s interactions with Poirier were far tamer leading up to their acquaintance, McGregor has continued to push for another fight against Nurmagomedov throughout the build-up of UFC 257 to re-establish himself after a year-long, tumultuous layoff in 2019 and his failed title challenge against Nurmagomedov in the Year 2018.
McGregor attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and other fighters in Brooklyn that year and was suspended for his role in a hand-to-hand combat that followed her fight in UFC 229 in October. He escalated their feud in 2019 and insulted Nurmagomedov’s wife.
In the UFC 257 pre-fight press conference on Thursday, McGregor stressed the need for a rematch, adding that he would resume the easy throne regardless of Nurmagomedov’s decision.
“It’s tough business and things have moved on in his personal life. I do not wish him any harm, as I said before, it was 2018, a lot of time has passed. “Said McGregor. “The world knows this fight is not over, this war is not over. Sport needs it, people have to do it. I won’t chase if he doesn’t want it you know what I mean And that’s it. I will keep calm and move on. “
White said Nurmagomedov told him that if he sees “something spectacular” on Saturday night, he may return to the Octagon, otherwise he could clear the light belt (via ESPN). That could come from either Poirier or McGregor, both of whom have defeated Nurmagomedov in recent years. It could also come from Michael Chandler or Dan Hooker facing each other at the UFC 257 co-main event. White also mentioned another lightweight, Charles Oliveira, who dominated Tony Ferguson in December.
Until then, McGregor’s struggles will continue outside of the octagon.
He was sued Monday in Ireland by a woman who accused him of raping her in a hotel penthouse in 2018, according to the New York Times, which uncovered multiple sexual assault allegations against him. Irish police and prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against McGregor, who was arrested and questioned at one point.
When asked about the lawsuit at the press conference, the crowd answered the question with low boos.
“You know, it’s old news. It has been thoroughly investigated over the course of two long years and I have been cleared of any wrongdoing and that’s it, ”said McGregor. “I have so many positives in my life that I have a big challenge ahead of me on Saturday night and I am very excited to get in.”