So what’s the delay with the UFC 205 fight card slated for Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York?
While a couple of bouts have been finalized, UFC officials have yet to name the main event. Most speculation has centered on the UFC trying to finalize negotiations for a fight between featherweight champion Conor McGregor and lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez.
It would certainly make sense. That would be a blockbuster bout on any card, and the UFC is surely bent on making a statement when it debuts in New York.
That coupled with company president Dana White saying repeatedly that McGregor is not going to be fighting again at welterweight any time soon – he would instead defend his belt at featherweight or give it up and fight at lightweight – would certainly point a significant finger in the direction of McGregor vs. Alvarez.
White shut down such speculation on Tuesday, responding to a fan’s tweet asking him to confirm or deny McGregor vs. Alvarez for UFC 205, by saying, “Not true. It’s Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
— Dana White (@danawhite) September 21, 2016
That fight – Alvarez vs. Nurmagomedov – also makes sense. Alvarez won the UFC lightweight championship in his most recent fight, defeating Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night 90 in July. Nurmagomedov is undefeated at 23-0, returned to action in April of this year, and is also the No. 1 contender at 155 pounds.
While a case can be made for either fight, even White’s public denial does little to provide clues as to which direction the promotion is steering.
White is frequently open about some of the avenues he’d like his company to pursue, but he’s also notoriously known for his public misdirection. A recent high-profile example being his repeated denials that the UFC was for sale, followed by WME | IMG purchasing the company for $4 billion.
Again, insider speculation has focused on McGregor vs. Alvarez, not Alvarez vs. Nurmagomedov, but negotiating with McGregor over the past year has become somewhat of a wild card for the UFC. It’s certainly not out of the question that he could be gumming up the works, and White’s tweet could be little more than a public negotiating ploy.
But if it is a ploy, it appears Nurmagomedov is in on it as well.
Me and Dana just waiting for Eddie to sign. I promise I will finish you fast and with no pain. https://t.co/4Zv9j8xejZ
— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) September 21, 2016