The UFC 229 headliner between lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov and former dual-division titleholder Conor McGregor has gone down in the annals of history for several reasons.
There were the 2.4 million pay-per-view buys. The most in UFC and mixed martial arts history. 20,034 fans in attendance at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, producing a live gate of $17.2 million. Both were records in Nevada for mixed martial arts and second on both counts in the entire Untied States. Only UFC 205, which also featured McGregor, at Madison Square Garden did a higher attendance and gate.
That’s several million reasons why there should be a rematch. Plus, McGregor, who seems to will things into existence, wants it.
Nurmagomedov, however, is the man with the gold belt, and he’s not all that interested in giving McGregor a rematch any time soon. His reasoning is simple: McGregor hasn’t earned it.
In this day and age, when money wields more gusto than most sporting arguments, Nurmagomedov isn’t planning to step immediately back in the Octagon with the brash Irishman just because the dollar signs would flash at a fever pitch… which they would.
Right now, Nurmagomedov is focused on legacy, which was made a little bit easier to do by the fact that his manager just negotiated a new contract that he says makes Nurmagomedov the highest paid fighter on the roster.
For Nurmagomedov, McGregor’s resume doesn’t hold championship water.
“Last three years, (McGregor) have only one victory in amateur boxing. How he deserve rematch? Like, he tap. He beg me, ‘please don’t kill me.’ And now, he talk about rematch with Tony Ferguson on the line?” said Nurmagomedov at Wednesday’s UFC 242 press conference in London.
“People who have win streak on the line, but [shakes head] not the guy who don’t win nothing like the last three years. I have a lot of work without him. And right now I’m focused on September 7.”
September 7 is the UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi, where Nurmagomedov is the featured artist. The last time the UFC was in Abu Dhabi was for a Fight Night in 2014 and then UFC 112 four years prior to that.
The promotion’s re-emergence in the United Arab Emirates country is part of a five-year deal, where the UFC will hold a championship event at least once per year. With Islam being the state religion in United Arab Emirates and Nurmagomedov being the UFC’s first Muslim champion, Abu Dhabi desperately wanted him to feature on the UFC 242 fight card.
The UFC did everything in its power to make it happen. Now Nurmagomedov will attempt to unify his belt with that of interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier, who held down the fort while Nurmagomedov served out a nine-month suspension.
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That is another reason for a McGregor rematch. Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s camps have been going at each other for years, and it all boiled over at UFC 229. After Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor via fourth-round submission, he climbed over the Octagon fence to brawl with McGregor cornerman Dillon Danis. That was where the nine-month suspension stemmed from. McGregor served a six-month suspension for his actions during the UFC 229 post-fight brawl.
That is still not enough for Nurmagomedov. There is bad blood remaining from their outside-the-cage rivalry, but for now, Nurmagomedov is not focused on the fight that satisfies his anger, he is focused on the fights that secure his legacy.