Conor McGregor will make his eagerly-anticipated UFC comeback as he attempts to wrest the lightweight title from the man who succeeded him as top dog in the division.
McGregor and unbeaten Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov have seemingly been on a collision course over the last couple of years and they will headline UFC 229 on October 6 in Las Vegas.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the key questions as the pair prepare for what has been billed as the “biggest fight in UFC history” by president Dana White.
What has been announced?
A press conference on Friday to mark UFC’s 25th anniversary was drawing to a close when White said: “We have one last thing we want to show you.” A promotional video was then screened to officially announce the bout, drawing a rapturous response from those in attendance as White added: “They’re not here unfortunately. But the fight is done, October, Las Vegas, it’s on ladies and gentlemen.”
Why is this fight so big?
Two words: McGregor’s back. The often-outspoken Irishman has not fought in the octagon since November 2016, when he became only the third man to capture UFC titles in two different weight classes by beating Eddie Alvarez. Since then he has had a foray into professional boxing but, despite his absence from mixed martial arts, remains the UFC’s most recognisable name as he backs up his undoubted ringcraft with charisma to burn. Of the six highest selling UFC PPVs, McGregor has featured in four of them and the bad blood between him and Nurmagomedov could ensure all records are broken.
Nurmagomedov, whose rise to prominence has been more of a slow burner in comparison to McGregor, was touted as an opponent when his foe first became lightweight champion. McGregor, though, never defended the strap as he courted a boxing showdown with Floyd Mayweather, leaving a vacuum in the division. Step forward Nurmagomedov, the man from Dagestan who claimed the vacant 155lb strap by beating Al Iaquinta in April to extend his MMA record to 26-0. The decision to strip McGregor (21-3) of his crown did not go down well and ill-feeling between the fighters escalated in the week leading up to Nurmagomedov becoming champion.
McGregor first fired off an incendiary tweet and, following an alleged confrontation between his friend Artem Lobov and Nurmagomedov, gatecrashed the media day for UFC 223. Video footage showed McGregor hurling a hand truck at a bus on which Nurmagomedov was a passenger after a press conference at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Last month he was sentenced to five days of community service in the United States after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. As part of a deal with prosecutors McGregor was also ordered to undertake an anger management class.
Should he be allowed to fight then?
In the immediate aftermath of McGregor’s bus attack, White, one of the 30-year-old’s biggest supporters, cast doubt on his UFC future. But it seems time and no lack of contrition from McGregor has softened the UFC president’s stance as he told ESPN: “Conor came and did what he did and didn’t expect the results that happened.” McGregor’s standing as one of the most bankable stars on the planet probably helped his cause, too, and the build-up to this event promises to be intriguing, at the very least.