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Conor McGregor 'almost had' Diego Sanchez fight in Mexico, now targeting Rafael dos Anjos at lightweight

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Cynthia Vance, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES -- Conor McGregor is next in line for a UFC featherweight title shot. And he's spoken at length about moving up to lightweight and even welterweight in the future. Get the fast-talking Irishman going long enough and he might put himself right up there with Cain Velasquez at heavyweight.

But as it turns out, McGregor was closer than most people knew to taking a fight at lightweight last year. "The Notorious" said Tuesday during the UFC 189 World Tour stop here in LA that he "almost had" a bout with Diego Sanchez at UFC 180 last November in Mexico City.

McGregor and Sanchez have exchanged barbs on social media and in interviews for years. When Sanchez's opponent, Norman Parke, got injured, McGregor petitioned the UFC to let him fill in. McGregor even tweeted that it would happen.

"I had [UFC CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta] on board," McGregor said. "Lorenzo was cool with it. But Dana didn't want it."

McGregor (17-2) understands why. The UFC has taken a sensible path with him. McGregor beat Dennis Siver in January to set up this massive bout with Jose Aldo for the featherweight title at UFC 189 on July 11 in Las Vegas.

However, leaving the 145-pound division is on McGregor's mind often. For one thing, making that weight is physically difficult for him. And he's also chasing history and money. McGregor, 26, envisions himself as a champion in two weight classes, maybe three. He issued a warning to new lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos on Tuesday.

"We will take Aldo and we will take dos Anjos, without a problem," McGregor said.

McGregor said he will depart the featherweight division if he beats Aldo under one condition.

"The featherweights must beg now," he said. "They must beg for pardon, beg for forgiveness. If that's the case, if they apologize and beg, I'll leave the division. I won't terrorize them anymore. They can have their division back. They can go back to being on the prelims and I'll go to the lightweight division."

McGregor did concede that the UFC could present a potential roadblock on his way if he is the champion.

"Obviously, with the belt on the line, it's a little bit different," McGregor said. "Because it's the belt now. They don't just allow you to move freely."

But McGregor said he would even be fine with fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov, someone he has befriended over the past few months. Nurmagomedov can earn a title shot against dos Anjos, a man he has already defeated, if he beats Donald Cerrone at UFC 187 on May 23 in Las Vegas.

"There is no friends in this game," McGregor said. "Business has no friends.

"The opponent is non-existent. It's the gold. The gold and the cash -- that's all I'm after."

Sanchez seems far in the rear-view mirror now. So many things have happened since that fight was ever proposed. McGregor gets why it didn't occur, but it seems like part of him would still like to have it out with Sanchez.

"Look at this fight now we have," McGregor said. "I can understand, but I look to compete. I look to get people who speak my name in vain. They speak bad about me, I'm gonna come and get them."