The confrontation between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor was again in the spotlight. In recent days, several representatives of the MMA community have directly or indirectly stated that they would not mind seeing a re-duel of lightweights in the foreseeable future. Moreover, not only representatives of both camps participated in the discussion of a possible revenge, but also the leadership of the Absolute Fighting Championship in the person of Dana White. The promotion president said that the Irishman is eager to meet again with the Russian in the octagon, and noted that he himself wants to watch this fight.
The breakdown of the battle between Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson gave a new impetus to the discussion of the organization of revenge. At first, the Russian could not perform at the UFC 249 tournament scheduled for April 18, and then - and at the competition postponed to May 9. As a result, Justin Gatgy came to replace the champion, who received the right to argue for the title of the first applicant for the belt.
At first it seemed that now fans of MMA should not have any questions regarding the determination of the future opponent Nurmagomedov. The battle between Ferguson and Gatzy was to determine the name of the holder of the temporary title and the applicant for the title of absolute champion, therefore, exclude possible conversations about other applicants for the trophy. But instead, a debate broke out in the press with renewed vigor with McGregor.
At first, UFC champion manager Ali Abdel-Aziz did not rule out that Nurmagomedov could fight with MacGregor if his father made such a decision. And then the Irish teammate Artyom Lobov called on Habib to fight with Conor in the near future. According to the fighter Bare Knuckle, after a face-to-face duel, Ferguson and Gatzy will need about a year to recover, and at that time the Russian could well face off with the Irish.
Undoubtedly, Lobov greatly exaggerated the length of the rehabilitation period for Tony and Justin, who clearly will be able to recover by the fall, to once again enter the cell in 2020. Given that by the end of the year Habib will have time to conduct a maximum of one fight (it is unlikely that the champion will rush things), he will be able to meet either the holder of the temporary title or Conor.
You can agree with Lobov in the sense that McGregor has already entered the history of mixed martial arts and may require the UFC leadership to fight with anyone he wants. But in this case, White should not follow the lead of the star and leave the winner of the Ferguson-Gatgi fight out of work. Moreover, not only on the basis of moral and ethical considerations, but also guided by sports principles.
Ferguson and Gatzy did a bold act, agreeing to fight in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Athletes were not afraid not only to put their health at stake for the opportunity to fight with Nurmagomedov, but also to appear in the octagon in an imperfect form. It is unlikely that under quarantine conditions one can approach the battle ready for 100%, which only increases the risk of suffering an unexpected defeat. This primarily refers to Tony, who risks a series of 12 consecutive wins.
Both fighters showed great loyalty to the promotion and with a high degree of probability will help him to ensure, if not record, then big profits from the sale of paid broadcasts. In a pandemic, fans cannot watch other sporting events and are unlikely to miss the opportunity to watch the tournament of the planet’s largest MMA promotion. And the presence in the card of such stars as Ferguson and Gatgy only increases the level of excitement.
In this situation, letting McGregor get the fight for the title earlier than Ferguson or Gatgy means once again putting popularity above sports merit and devaluing the importance of the interim championship. Yes, the UFC has already allowed itself something like this, but promotion is hardly worth doing it again. Especially considering that the victim was Tony. In April 2018, he injured his knee less than a week before the fight with Nurmagomedov and was deprived of both the belt and the title of the first challenger. And then his place was taken just by Conor, who returned to MMA after meeting with Floyd Mayweather.
But if then McGregor had the victory over Nate Diaz and Eddie Alvarez and remained undefeated in the lightweight division in the UFC, now everything has changed. Despite the vivid performance in the battle with Donald Cerrone, at the moment he does not deserve the right to fight for the belt. Although the Irishman got the better of the illustrious lightweight, this does not outweigh the merits of both Americans. If you win at UFC 249, Tony's unbeaten run will make 13 fights, and Justin four.
To be considered a full-fledged challenger, McGregor needs to win at least one battle over a lightweight elite. While Nurmagomedov will be preparing for a meeting with the interim champion, the Irish may well fight with Dustin Porier or Charles Oliveira. Both the American and the Brazilian expressed interest in a duel, therefore, problems with the organization should not arise.
Such an option would be as fair as possible and in the future would allow McGregor to fight again for the belt. There is no doubt that he can afford to deal with Porrier for the second time in his career, and get the better of Oliveira, who has serious gaps in the shock technique. During this time, Nurmagomedov could hold the third defense of the title and allow White to arrange revenge.
In 2021, a second duel between Nurmagomedov and McGregor would not only make much more sense, but also have a high level of excitement among fans. Not only the 30th victory of the Russian in his professional career would be at stake, but also a record for the number of lightweight title defenses. If successful, he would have defended his title for the fourth time and beat BJ Penn, Frank Edgar and Benson Henderson in this respect.
As for the Irishman, the triumph over Porrier or Oliveira would strengthen his position in the division and would not allow him to doubt his status. If now many are skeptical about his prospects in the battle with Nurmagomedov, then another bright victory could change the public’s opinion. There is no doubt that the fans' attention to the rematch will be enormous, but if there is confidence in McGregor's strengths, it can become overwhelming. In this case, the UFC is almost guaranteed to be able to sell more than 3 million paid broadcasts, which White dreamed of back in October 2018.