Conor McGregor Must Win ‘Nightmare Matchup’ for Khabib Rematch

Conor McGregor

Getty Conor McGregor

UFC president Dana White and Irish superstar Conor McGregor badly want  UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov to agree to a rematch against McGregor later this year in what could turn out to be the best-selling UFC pay-per-view event in history, but it looks like the 31-year-old from Dublin has some work to do before that fight can happen.

Because Nurmagomedov’s manager Ali Abdelaziz revealed to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto on Saturday that McGregor must first face and defeat top-rated lightweight contender Justin Gaethje before Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor 2 can be made.

“The reason why I don’t think he’s fought Justin Gaethje is I think out of everybody in the UFC, Justin Gaethje takes people to a different place,” Abdelaziz said per ESPN. “Many people break. And we’ve seen Conor McGregor break before. Justin Gaethje is a nightmare matchup for him.”

Abdelaziz Manages Gaethje and Nurmagomedov

Abdelaziz also manages Gaethje, so this all could be part of the negotiation process between the two camps. While pundits have tossed around a myriad of names for McGregor’s next potential opponent, including Nurmagomedov, Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal and others, Gaethje has been hailed the front-runner to land the lucrative megafight against McGregor and seems, at least situationally, to be one of the strongest possibilities.

After all, Gaethje is currently ranked No. 4 at lightweight, and McGregor is ranked No. 3. Them facing each other would naturally produce a worthy title challenger.

But Gaethje being the most likely next man up for McGregor seems especially true after Abdelaziz’s most recent comments.

Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round at UFC 229 in October 2018. Both fighters are 1-0 since that fight in limited action thanks to the suspension both Nurmagomedov and McGregor served following their UFC 229 post-fight melee.

Will UFC 249 Spoil Nurmagomedov-McGregor Rematch?

Additionally, Nurmagomedov faces Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 next month. So while Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor 2 would sell tons of PPVs under the current conditions in the sport, Nurmagomedov still has to beat Ferguson in April to keep those conditions the same. Otherwise, it would seem more likely that McGregor would turn his attention toward Ferguson over Nurmagomedov, at least in the immediate future.

Regardless, Abdelaziz told Okamoto not to expect a McGregor rematch announcement after the fight should Nurmagomedov retain his title at UFC 249.

“If Khabib wins on April 18, Conor McGregor is not getting a title shot — simple,” Abdelaziz said per ESPN.

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Abdelaziz Throws Down Gaethje Gauntlet

For Abdelaziz, it’s all about McGregor proving he deserves having next crack at the title. Beating Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 via first-round knockout got McGregor back into the mix, but Gaethje had done virtually the same thing to Cerrone just fourth months prior.

“Dana White is the best promoter of all time because he understands fighting and matchmaking,” Abdelaziz said per ESPN. “The only way Conor McGregor can fight for a title is if he beats someone like Justin Gaethje. If he were to do that, it would be hard to deny him.”

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Twitter: @Kelsey_McCarson

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