06 Oct The Whole World Awaits McGregor’s UFC Return
It was boxing that grabbed the Las Vegas spotlight last month as Gennady Golovkin and Saul Alvarez went to war. October is the time for Mixed Martial Arts to display its brutality as Connor McGregor makes his highly-anticipated return to take on Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov. Here, Chris Walker takes a look at the intriguing clash.
The most significant return in UFC’s takes place on Saturday night as Ireland’s Connor McGregor fully refreshed from his painful, but lucrative, stint in boxing, returns to the Octagon for his first MMA outing in almost two years when he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov for his old UFC lightweight championship at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
McGregor’s absence from his chosen sport has been felt by his ardent supporters, and despite his popularity receiving a significant boost due to his shenanigans with Floyd Mayweather in August last year, McGregor’s lack of cage action has been frustrating for those who have followed his career intently. Since making his UFC bow in 2013, McGregor has stolen the show on multiple occasions, and his all-action style has earned him wide acclaim and several “Performance of the Night” awards.
In December 2015, McGregor captured the UFC featherweight strap with a rapid 13 second KO of Jose Aldo in a fight that had opinions split beforehand. Three months later, McGregor headed to welterweight to challenge Nate Diaz, but his courageous leap was unrewarded as he was forced to submit in the second session. In August 2016, he exacted revenge over the Californian with a majority decision victory and then relocated to lightweight where he won another world belt by stopping Eddie Alvarez in the second round. McGregor hasn’t been anywhere near his beloved sport ever since.
For McGregor, the majority of his 2017 was spent staunchly promoting his mainstream super-fight with boxing icon, Mayweather. The best of both worlds collided in a highly-anticipated clash in where the outcome was known before a punch had even been thrown. McGregor’s lack of experience, this was his maiden professional boxing outing, was evident from the first bell as Mayweather teased him for ten rounds before ending the torture with a vicious barrage of punches. McGregor was well compensated, but will such a lengthy spell away from the craft he has somewhat perfected effect his showing this weekend?
In Nurmagomedov, McGregor is opposed by an unbeaten fighter and UFC mainstay since 2012. The Russian star has no idea what losing feels like, and he heads into battle with two impressive wins since McGregor last fought. In Brooklyn back in April, Nurmagomedov collected his world title with a resounding decision win over Al Iaquinta, and his fighting spirit is undoubtedly wholesome judging by his first defence.
The pair has already been involved in several unsavoury skirmishes, most notably, McGregor hurling a barrier at a bust that Nurmagomedov was sat on a bus during a UFC media day back in spring. This is a fight built on volatile exchanges and any motivation McGregor required following his new level of fame has undoubtedly been provided.
Sport at the highest level comes down to the tiniest of margins and McGregor’s inactivity for the past 23 months could be the deciding factor in this bout. Consistency goes a long way in the fight game, and Khabib has that on his side as he prepares to deter the threat possessed by the Irish hero. McGregor has the power to turn the fight in his favour at any time, but the 10/17 price currently being offered by SportPesa is the standout price for this showdown.