Following the event, White surprised viewers with a video explaining that lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his championship against McGregor. The fight will take place at UFC 229, held on October 6 at Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.
This is widely expected to become the most-lucrative UFC fight in history. McGregor, who’s become an international star after boxing Floyd Mayweather, may help the promotion achieve 2 million pay-per-views for the first time ever.
Nurmagomedov will also help build the event, because he’s currently undefeated at 26-0.
McGregor Is Eligible to Return after Misdemeanor Guilty Plea
McGregor has already created some buildup to this fight after a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in New York. Prior to UFC 223 in Brooklyn, the Irishman threw a hand truck at a bus that Nurmagomedov was riding.
Now, the world’s two most dominant lightweight MMA fighters are scheduled to clash. This will be the first time that McGregor has stepped into the Octagon since he beat Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016.
This victory gave McGregor the lightweight championship and made him the first UCF fighter to ever hold two weight class titles simultaneously. The 30-year-old already held the featherweight title before his Nov. fight with Alvarez.
The UFC 229 match will also be McGregor’s first fight of any kind since he was knocked out by Mayweather last year. He fought well against a much more experienced opponent and even won some early rounds. But McGregor was finally KO’ed in the ninth round.
As for Nurmagomedov, he’s never lost an MMA bout and now lays claim to the lightweight title that McGregor vacated by leaving to box Mayweather. Nurmagomedov is an expert grappler who looks to keep things on the ground, because he’s not one of the best fighters.
Meanwhile, McGregor is a top UFC striker whose weakness is grappling and Brazilian jujitsu. That said, the Dublin native will be looking to stay upright for most of the bout.
Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor Looks Like a Truly Special Fight
First off, look for these two to fling a record amount of trash talk before October 6. Both fighters are accustomed to calling out opponents and trying to verbally humiliate them.
Nurmagomedov was particularly vocal a couple years ago about never getting a title fight. He finally got the championship match and won. Now, he steps into what may be the largest money-generating MMA fight ever.
The talent level of both fighters is off the charts. Again, Nurmagomedov has never lost an MMA fight, which is unprecedented for somebody who’s gone through 26 battles — most of them against strong competition.
McGregor has shown his skills by winning two different UFC belts and surviving a couple of wars against Nate Diaz — another one of the sport’s best athletes. That said, this upcoming fight could be MMA’s version of Joe Fraser vs. Muhammad Ali and 1971.
Ali (31-0) and Frazier (26-0) both entered the 1971 bout undefeated and looking to win the heavyweight championship.
Dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” this event saw Ali box for the first time since serving a three-year ban for refusing to go into the military. He would easily outbox Frazier and win by unanimous decision.
McGregor is similar to Ali, because he never actually lost his lightweight championship belt in the ring. And he was stripped of his featherweight belt after taking an absence to train for the boxing match.
Major Money on the Line
McGregor, whose record is 21-3 overall and 9-1 in the UFC, brings as high a pedigree as any fighter to the table. His only loss came at UFC 196, when he was choked out by Diaz.
This is one of the few fights in any sport that doesn’t need artificial hype. Instead, it will feature two marquee athletes who figure to create an event that’s almost on the same level of Mcgregor vs. Mayweather.
The UFC’s largest live gate was $17.7 million, which occurred when McGregor beat Alvarez at UFC 205 in 2016. The upcoming McGregor-Nurmagomedov bout could become the first UFC event to break $20 million at the live gate.
Most experts see it as a given that UFC 229 will break the promotion’s current PPV record, which is 1.65 million buys for UFC 202. Dana White echoed these sentiments.
“I think when all is said and done, this will be the biggest fight we’ve ever done,” said White. “Conor is one of the biggest superstars in the world and Khabib is the undefeated champion. These are two flat-out killers in their primes squaring off with everything on the line.”
White added, “I hate to talk about what happened in New York, but these guys have a ton of animosity and everybody saw what happened and that’s going to help this, too.
“And what I love is, you hear guys say they will fight anyone, but then it’s after I do this and after that. These two, Conor and Khabib, as soon as it was possible for them to fight, they said, ‘Let’s fight.’ I love that and I think people love that about them.”
Odds on McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov
Nurmagomedov is being favored due to the fact that he’ll have no ring rust. McGregor, meanwhile, must overcome two years of inactivity in the Octagon.
But McGregor is also a very strong fighter who usually comes in much heavier after a weigh-in. Plus, he has the one-punch knockout ability to end the fight quickly.
No matter what happens, White is just excited to make such an event.
“It wasn’t hard putting this fight together at all,” White explained. “Conor is a guy who loves to fight and when he was able to, he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s why he’s such a huge superstar.
“In boxing, everyone knows what fight should be happening. How can they not have made [Anthony] Joshua and [Deontay] Wilder? That’s always what happens. But these two guys, they’re pure fighters and that’s why this is going to be so special.”