Former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor hasn’t fought since last October but that doesn’t mean he’s ducking opponents who have been presented to him.
That’s the word from UFC president Dana White, who was asked about McGregor’s next fight amidst tons of rumors regarding his return to action before 2019 is finished.
McGregor fell to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 and since that time he’s been attached to at least one potential fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone that fell apart when the Irish superstar reportedly refused to settle for a co-headlining slot on a card.
Back in April, lightweight ‘Fight of the Night’ machine Justin Gaethje then called out McGregor with his manager Ali Abdez-Aziz also piling on while asking if the former champion was going to accept the fight he was offered.
White responded to all of those rumors this week while standing up for McGregor as a guy who has always been willing to fight anyone and never backed down from any challenge.
“No, Conor hasn’t turned down anything,” White told BT Sport. “Listen, Ali can say whatever, Conor doesn’t turn down fights, period.
“Conor has been one of the most stand up [guys], when things get crazy and most people pull out of fights, Conor McGregor stays in. McGregor isn’t afraid to fight anyone so that is absolutely false.”
"Conor has not turned down ANY fights."— Watch UFC 239 live on BT Sport Box Office (@btsportufc) June 12, 2019
"When things get crazy and most people pull out of fights @TheNotoriousMMA stays in."
Dana White reveals that he expects McGregor to return to the octagon this year pic.twitter.com/1c2ECRbxib
As much as White regards McGregor as a fighter who is willing to face anybody put in front of him, he also admits that the Irish superstar is likely sitting on the sidelines right now waiting for some key fights in the lightweight division to play out before deciding on a date for his return to the octagon.
The most important factor is the upcoming showdown between Nurmagomedov and interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier as they prepare to clash at UFC 242 on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi.
McGregor has made it no secret that he wants a rematch against the undefeated Russian more than any other option out there and a win against Poirier could potentially put them on a collision course again.
McGregor also holds a knockout win over Poirier from their time fighting at featherweight so that’s certainly another option for him after September.
As of now, there’s still no word on when McGregor actually will commit to a fight but White believes he will be back before 2019 is closed.
“Conor’s in a position where he’s sitting back right now, I think waiting to see how this whole thing plays out with all these guys but he should pop up soon,” White said. “Yeah, I think we’ll see him this year.”
In response to the declaration that McGregor never turns down fights, Abdel-Aziz, who also manages UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov as well as Gaethje, issued a response regarding claims that the Irish superstar has never backed down from a fight.
“Dana White, the reason why he’s the greatest promoter of all time is because he has a dying dog and he makes us believe he’s a wolf,” Abdel-Aziz told MMAFighting when speaking about McGregor. “It’s not Conor’s time anymore. His time has passed. Everybody has moved on. The UFC moved on. The fans have moved on and he thought the sport would not survive without him. He thought Khabib was going to give him a rematch but if he’s really got the balls to fight someone like Tony [Ferguson] or Justin [Gaethje], he should step up. You want a rematch say ‘I’ll go beat some of the top contenders, I’m not going to go fight “Cowboy” [Donald Cerrone] or some of these guys, I’ll go ahead and I’ll pick Gaethje or Tony’. Those are the two guys to beat right now.
“They are coming off wins, everybody else is coming off losses. If he has balls like he always talks about it, this is what he should do. If he does that, maybe I’ll give him a little bit of respect but right now I’ve got no respect for him. Zero. He should fight Tony or Justin, that’s it.”
When it comes to a potential matchup against Gaethje, Abdez-Aziz doesn’t like McGregor’s chances but it’s obviously a fight they’d be interested in taking.
“Fighting Justin is like taking you to a dark hole. Somebody’s going to die,” Abdel-Aziz said. “It can be him or it can be somebody else but everybody knows how Conor gives up in dark places. Justin can out last him in the dark place. That’s the truth. I’m not saying something outlandish. Justin takes people to a dark place, is Conor ready to go into that dark hole? I don’t think so. I don’t think he has the balls to go to the dark places.
“Justin, we know you have to kill him and I think he can out last Conor. I don’t blame him for not fighting Justin. It’s all good. It’s no problem.”