Conor McGregor is eyeing a UFC return with the outcome of the UFC 242 main event in Abu Dhabi critical to the route he takes.
Current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov takes on Dustin Poirier in the September 7 showpiece with McGregor ready to put his name back in the frame.
In today’s post-UFC 240 press conference, UFC president Dana White confirmed he had been in touch with the Notorious one, and seeing him in the cage in the not too distant future is a real prospect.
“Yeah, I talked to him last week. He wants to come back,” said White.
“Really what he’s doing is he’s looking to see how everything plays out in September. I was just saying out there that as of right now, Khabib and [Dustin] Poirier are fighting. You know how this business works – anything can happen and it usually does.
“So I think he’s just waiting to see how it all plays out, and does he have an opportunity somewhere to jump in and make something happen.”
A win for Nurmagomedov would put McGregor out of the title picture in the short term as Tony Ferguson is next in line for a shot at the Russian.
Should Poirier take the gold, then the Irishman could force his way into a shot against the American – but again Ferguson would have plenty to say about that.
Failing those options, a rubber match against Nate Diaz could also be on the cards. The two have one win apiece and following their high profile, high octane bouts in the past there would be an appetite for a decider. Diaz takes on Anthony Pettis next month at 155lbs so would likely be able to fight again before the end of the year.
Another option would be a move to 170lbs, or a catchweight, to fight either Donald Cerrone or Jorge Masvidal.
A bout with Cerrone has been touted in the past but at 155, while Masvidal is a hot property now following his record breaking KO of Ben Askren and would jump at the chance to take on McGregor – pending a title shot at 170lbs.
Cerrone would be the more attractive of these options, but ideally back down at 155.
Featherweight king Max Holloway scored a unanimous decision win over Frankie Edgar to retain his title and standing as the greatest 145lb-er in UFC history.
‘Blessed’ dominated from the outset using his superior reach to keep the shorter man at distance, finding a home for his razor sharp jab with unerring ease.
Edgar was his usual tenacious self but rarely troubled the Hawaiian, seeing 12 of his 13 attempts at a takedown stunted by the champion.
Holloway has now won 14 of his last 15 fights in the UFC with his only loss in that run happening on his sole foray up to 155lbs – when he lost to Abu Dhabi-bound Dustin Poirier.
Edgar, 23-7, insisted after the fight his career is not over, but having lost two of his last three, a move down to bantamweight may well be on the cards.
Elsewhere Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino got back in the win column with a hard-fought victory over a game Felicia Spencer, and Geoff Neal continued his unbeaten UFC run.
Here are the main takeaways from UFC 240 in Edmonton.
We are Blessed to have Max
In Max Holloway, we are witnessing a once-in-a-generation fighter in the 145lbs division. The way in which he has ripped through the entire division so far has been as clinical as it has brutal.
Edgar is the first man to take him the distance at this weight since 2016, with standouts Anthony Pettis, Jose Also, twice, and Brian Ortega all falling victim to the hands of Holloway.
The way in which he dismantled Ortega, the only man to ever stop Edgar, was particularly impressive.
Last night’s performance, which took Holloway to 21-4, was very different, but equally impressive – negating any offence ‘The Answer’ mounted, while showcasing his hands once again. A height advantage plus speed and accuracy creates an intriguing puzzle, one that will taking some solving for anyone attempting to in the future.
The natural next step would be to take on Alexander Volkanovski – himself on a 17-fight win streak, with seven of those coming in the UFC.
The Australian is ranked number one in the division behind Holloway and has taken the scalps of Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes in his last two outings.
Beyond that fifth-ranked Zabit Magomedsharipov has won his last thirteen, including five in the UFC. Three of his UFC wins have come via submission, and the Russian would offer Holloway a very different challenge.
Cyborg is back – but for how long?
Cris Cyborg showed no ill effects of her defeat to Amanda Nunes as she scored a unanimous decision over a very game Felicia Spencer.
The Brazilian looked in fine form on the feet landing with ease, but unable to find the finish we have seen so often in the past. Credit here goes to the American who showed phenomenal durability and heart to see out the full 15 minutes.
Spencer also became the first person to cut Cyborg when she landed an elbow in the first round, but was never able to impose her will and takes things to the mat.
The big question now is whether we will see a rematch between Cyborg and Amanda Nunes.
Both fighters want the bout, but it will now come down to financial and contractual wrangling with the UFC.
It’s not new to hear Cyborg being at odds with the UFC, but for her to try and avenge one of only two losses on her record then a new contract with the organisation needs to be in place.
A few years ago, she would have held most of the bargaining chips but now at the age of 34, with a convincing loss to Nunes, and a division lacking in any kind of depth you have to wonder how much the UFC is willing to spend on keeping her in their ranks.
170lbs division keeps getting deeper
Much has been said about 28-year-old Geoff Neal and his ‘Handz of Steel’, and the hype train will continue after this latest showing against Niko Price.
Rocked in the first round, Neal was able to recover, and then finish his man following a wild exchange at the start of the second – which ended up with both men on the canvas.
With four wins in the UFC, including a submission, head kick knockout and this latest TKO, Neal is certainly entertaining but in one of the deepest divisions in the organisation is some way away from gaining any real notoriety.
A fight against a top-15 opponent has to be next on the list.
The interim champ takes on the undefeated Nurmagomedov at the Yas Arena and has been chronicling his training camp on social media.
Poirier, a veteran of a 30-fight professional career, 22 of those in the UFC, is undefeated in his last six fights, and has lost only once in his last 11.
Confidence is clearly high in ‘The Diamond’s’ camp with him declaring this week that he will be taking the title home on September 7.
He then doubled down on the claim on Twitter….
September 7th I will be the undisputed world champion.— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) July 21, 2019
He’s even been getting a little philosophical about it all, quoting Sun Tzu. If anyone knows about perseverance though, it’s Poirier.
He has suffered a number of setbacks in the UFC – including four defeats – two of which came against fighters Khabib has beaten, Conor McGregor and Michael Johnson.
Written off, the now 30-year-old Diamond has continued to develop and is now at the peak of his powers, and fully deserving of this title shot.
Working the cardio
Khabib fights at a relentless, smothering pace, and if Poirier is going to hang with the Dagestan native then his cardio will have to be on point.
If things go to the floor Khabib will be confident of heaping pressure on Poirier with his wrestling. In that position, the worst case scenario for Khabib will be to take some of the wind out of Poirier’s sails, so the American’s gas tank is going to have to be at full capacity.
Keep it on the feet
It goes without saying that Poirier will want to keep this fight standing. Khabib has already commended his opponent on his stand-up game, and this is clearly the best route to victory for the challenger.
While it can be easy in camp to concentrate on Khabib and the dangers of his takedowns and how to quash them, it will also be key for Poirier to hone the weapons that have got him to this level in the first place.
The Eagle sharpens his talons
Khabib is a fighting machine. Drilled and hardened, his focus on September 7 remains unwavering.