White: Khabib-Conor in 2020 a real possibility


LAS VEGAS — A lightweight championship rematch between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor is a very real possibility in 2020, according to UFC president Dana White.

McGregor (21-4) is scheduled to face Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone (36-13) at UFC 246 on Jan. 18 in Las Vegas, while Nurmagomedov (28-0) is set to defend his title against Tony Ferguson (25-3) on April 18 in Brooklyn.

According to White, McGregor asked to fight Cerrone at the 170-pound welterweight limit — instead of 155 pounds — because he wants to be ready in the event anything happens to Ferguson on April 18. McGregor didn’t want to cut to 155 pounds twice in that amount of time, White said.

“Conor wants to fight three times this year,” White told ESPN. “He’s hoping if he beats Cowboy, he can turn right around and fight Khabib, but that timing isn’t going to work out. But you know Conor. His thing is, ‘I’ll fight Cowboy, I’ll beat Cowboy and I’ll be ready to fight Khabib at 155 if anything happens.”

The UFC has booked the Nurmagomedov, Ferguson matchup five different times, dating back to 2015. It has fallen through four of those times for various reasons. Most recently, Ferguson was forced to withdraw from a scheduled bout against Nurmagomedov in April 2018 due to a freak knee injury.

In the event Nurmagomedov and McGregor did win their respective bouts, it could lead to an unusual situation. It’s somewhat rare to see a fighter win a fight in one division, and then receive an immediately title shot in a completely different weight class. The lightweight division also has several worth title challengers behind Ferguson, including Justin Gaethje.

White said the history between the two — Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in a title fight in October 2018, after a very personal buildup — as well as the fact McGregor and Cerrone are ranked lightweights.

“Come on, guys,” White said. “Look what Conor has done over the last, however many years. And then he loses to Khabib in a fight that was, wee’ve talked about bad blood, try next level bad blood. Gaethje was on his way up, too, we’ve offered Gaethje a lot of fights that Gaethje hasn’t taken.

“So, Conor is in line next for this fight if he beats Cowboy … this is a 155-pound fight that they’re not cutting weight for.”

According to White, McGregor might have a backup plan if he loses to Cerrone in January. By holding that fight at 170 pounds, it could set the stage for him to fight another popular welterweight, 2019 super star Jorge Masvidal.

“The other thing is that Conor has this idea that if things don’t go his way, he’ll have a 170 fight in his pocket. And he’s considering a Masvidal fight. I think [that’s] a bad idea, but Conor gets pissed off when I say it’s a bad idea. He’s like, ‘you think I can’t beat Masvidal?’ and that whole thing. I’m not saying he can’t beat Masvidal, anybody can beat anybody on any given day, but why? Why go after that fight if you could possibly just wait? This is the reason that Conor McGregor is so intriguing and why so many fans love to watch him fight. And you have to love the fact that a guy is willing to fight anybody.”

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