Dana White says conversations with Conor McGregor in the lead-up to his comeback in Abu Dhabi next week prove the Irishman is as ready to compete again as he’s ever been.
The former two-division champion takes on Dustin Poirier in the headline bout at UFC 257 on January 24, the curtain-closer to a three-event Fight Island that begins in the capital this week.
McGregor, 32, has not fought since last January, when he defeated Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds in Las Vegas. However, McGregor later became disillusioned with the lack of attractive options presented to him by the promotion and in June announced his retirement.
Now, though, White says the sport’s biggest draw can’t wait to step back into the octagon.
In an interview with ESPN, the UFC president said: “The questions are always, ‘This guy is so rich, how hungry is he?’ There’s nothing more exciting or fun than a motivated Conor McGregor when his head is in the right place. And you can tell when he is and when he isn’t, and right now, he’s in.
“My conversations with Conor - I know when the real Conor is here and the other Conor is here - and believe me when I tell you, the real Conor is here.
“If something happened to Dustin Poirier, he is the Conor McGregor right now that doesn’t give a [expletive] who we put in that fight. He’s going to be, ‘Who’s ready? Who you got? I’m going to the gym, tell me who’s showing up on Saturday.’ He’s that guy right now. That Conor McGregor is back.”
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McGregor-Poirier represents a rematch of the pair’s 2014 featherweight encounter, which McGregor won by first-round TKO. Now, the duo represent two of the leading lightweight contenders in the world - McGregor is the former champion, Poirier a former interim title-holder - with many viewing the clash as an eliminator to next fight for the belt. Khabib Nurmagomedov currently holds the crown.
Fight Island, the UFC's third residency in Abu Dhabi since July, kicks off on Saturday with a Fight Night headlined by Max Holloway against Calvin Kattar. Another Fight Night, topped by Michael Chiesa against Neil Magny, follows on January 20. All events will take place at the new Etihad Arena on Yas Bay, and are open to a "limited number" of fans. Tickets went on sale last Friday.