Back in October, reigning UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement, which typically leads to the title being vacated and a new champion being crowned. UFC President Dana White hit the pause button on that action, however, as he intends to make a pitch to Nurmagomedov in January in hopes of getting the undefeated Russian to return for at least one more fight.
That said, White has said he believes Nurmagomedov might return for a chance to improve his record to 30-0 but it seems unlikely he would compete beyond that.
In that scenario the lightweight title would eventually become vacant anyway and McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh can’t help but wonder why a championship isn’t on the line in the UFC 257 main event.
“I don’t really get why this one isn’t for the title, if I’m being 100 percent honest.” Kavanagh said when speaking to The Mac Life ahead of McGregor’s return in January. “Maybe it’s Dana, this is a little carrot towards Khabib ‘do you really want this guy [to have it?].’ I don’t know. I know there’s stuff, the games that go on, I don’t involve myself in it.
“But this to me feels like it’s for the belt. But I guess at the very least the winner of this will be offered a title fight but who would that be against? It’s a bit of a strange scene we have in front of us, which makes it interesting.”
Kavanagh makes a compelling argument given McGregor and Poirier’s standings in the current UFC rankings. Perhaps at the very least an interim title being introduced would help the division move forward whether Nurmagomedov decides to fight again or not.
Of course an ideal situation for McGregor would be dispatching Poirier in January and then earning a rematch with Nurmagomedov at some point in 2021. Sadly, it doesn’t seem likely that will happen after Nurmagomedov already shot down that idea when asked about potential fights that might interest him in coming out of retirement.
“I think Conor and Khabib are the two best lightweights,” Kavanagh said. “It would be for me from a coaching perspective, phenomenal to see that contest again. Will he come back? You’re asking the wrong guy. That’s Khabib.
“He seems the type of guy if he says something, that’s it, but like Dana has hinted, there might be some wiggle room in those promises made. Time will tell.”
For now, Kavanagh is keeping his sights set on getting McGregor ready for his rematch with Poirier. After only competing once in 2020, McGregor is once again interested in keeping an active and busy schedule in the New Year, but he first needs to get past Poirier to set the stage for future opportunities.
“Right now, we have a very exciting fight coming up in a couple of weeks’ time,” Kavanagh said. “I think 2021, regardless of what’s next for Conor, is going to be an exciting year. He seems to be in a very different mindset than I’ve seen him in a long time.
“Conor tends to be all in no matter what he’s doing and he’s all in on following a routine and training a certain way and eating a certain way and he’s got all sorts of ideas about different competitions and different things he can do for the next year and I’m just happy to be playing a small part.”