A rematch between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov is the fight to make should the Irishman get past Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi next month, according to UFC president Dana White.
McGregor, a former two-division world champion, makes his long-awaited comeback at UFC 257 on January 23, the final of three events in eight days on the upcoming Fight Island series.
McGregor’s clash against Poirier, his first competitive bout in more than one year, is a rematch of their 2014 encounter at featherweight, from which he prevailed via a first-round TKO.
However, with the January 23 bout taking place at lightweight, many consider it to be an eliminator for a shot at the belt. The division's current situation is a little uncertain, though, with reigning champion Nurmagomedov retired.
White plans to meet the undefeated Dagestan native during his stay in Abu Dhabi, where he will attempt to coax Nurmagomedov to return to the octagon.
And if he does, a reprisal of his money-spinning 2018 match-up with McGregor – Nurmagomedov won by fourth-round submission in the most lucrative fight in UFC history – would represent his priority.
“Obviously I’m going to meet with Khabib when I get into Abu Dhabi – I go next week – and if Conor wins the fight against Poirier you do Conor versus Khabib again,” White told reporter “The Schmo” in Las Vegas on Thursday.
“It’s a big fight; it’s the rematch to make. But there’s a lot of ‘ifs’. If Khabib still wants to fight; if Conor beats Poirier; and if I can get Khabib to accept that fight. Maybe he wants to fight somebody else [and] he doesn’t want to fight Conor. We’ll see.”
Speaking also to the Shout! Podcast, White said: “In a perfect world, if Conor wins this fight, I would love to see the rematch with him and Khabib. It’s the fight that makes sense.”
That said, there remain a lot of hurdles to overcome, not least Nurmagomedov's commitment to his retirement. The 32-year-old made the shock call in October, immediately following his second-round victory against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on Fight Island.
The win, which lifted his record to 29-0, was Nurmagomedov’s first competitive appearance since his father Abdulmanap died in July from complications resulting from contracting Covid-19. Nurmagomedov said in October that he promised his mother he would call it a day and has since repeated his intention to remain retired.
Meanwhile, White also confirmed Michael Chandler will make his much-anticipated UFC debut against Dan Hooker at UFC 257. The American, a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion, signed with the promotion in September and was on standby for the Nurmagomedov-Gaethje bout in Abu Dhabi. Hooker lost his most recent outing, a Fight of the Year contender against Poirier, in June.
UFC 257 concludes the third Fight Island run, with events taking place on January 16 and 20.