The former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion questions Nurmagomedov’s decision to walk away from the sport and says a lot has to do with avoiding a potential rematch between the two.
Nurmagomedov (29-0 MMA, 13-0 UFC) hung up his gloves after defending his belt against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October. “The Eagle” cited a promise made to his mother to stop fighting following the death of his father, coach and mentor Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, earlier in 2020, as the reason he was no longer going to continue in MMA.
McGregor (22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) thinks there’s more to that decision.
“I think he’s afraid to fight me, that’s for damn sure,” McGregor told ESPN. “I don’t blame him. I know exactly what to face. I fought the best of him that night and he fought the worst of me that night. He knows it, I know it, his team knows it.
“I have the answer to destroy that man. He can pull the wool over people’s eyes only for so long, but it is what it is. I know there’s surrounding things regarding the family. If he’s retired then that’s it I wish him well. But I am who I am and I’m at the top and time will show.”
McGregor returns to the octagon Saturday against Dustin Poirier in a lightweight bout. The rematch headlines UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.
McGregor and Nurmagomedov fought in 2018 at UFC 229. Nurmagomedov submitted the Irishman in the fourth round in a dominant showing. Right after the bout, a brawl erupted between the two teams that resulted in multiple suspensions.
McGregor doesn’t understand Nurmagomedov’s decision to retire from MMA. Even if it’s not for a rematch against him, McGregor thinks there are many challenges left at 155 pounds.
“I think his hand is showing he’s not a true fighter, in my opinion,” McGregor said. “I mean how could you retire? How could you walk away? There’s so many fights to be had.
“Think of (Nate) Diaz, (Tony) Ferguson, there’s (Charles) Oliveira, the rematch with me. I think it’s just preposterous to walk away. Not only did he (expletive) on the bus, I think he (expletive) on the chips, also. I think he showed his hand, but then at the same time, there’s family issues. So it is what it is. All the best.”
Nurmagomedov told UFC president Dana White he could be interested in coming back to the sport depending on what happens in the lightweight bouts going down at UFC 257. Apart from McGregor vs. Poirier 2, former Bellator champion Michael Chandler makes his UFC debut against Dan Hooker. There’s also top contender Charles Oliveira who’s coming off a dominant win against Tony Ferguson.
McGregor wants the Nurmagomedov rematch, but he’s not losing any sleep over it.
“I’m here for it. I would like it,” McGregor said. “But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I wonder what he’s going to say. Like I said, he can only pull wool over someone’s eyes for so long.”