The lightweight title picture will become much clearer after UFC 242 when reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov faces interim champion Dustin Poirier on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi.
Once an undisputed champion is crowned, the rest of the division can begin getting into position to challenge the winner and that short list of potential opponents still includes former two-division king Conor McGregor.
McGregor has been out of action since last October when he fell to Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 but he has been adamant ever since that he wanted another shot at the undefeated Russian.
While the UFC didn’t cater to his wishes by giving McGregor an automatic rematch, it’s still not out of the realm of possibilities that he gets a second crack at Nurmagomedov if he gets past Poirier on Sept. 7.
“Conor wants that fight. Conor wants the rematch with Khabib,” UFC president Dana White said about McGregor when appearing on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Tuesday. “All these guys have been fighting, again, this thing’s going to play out this weekend and then Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi, and then we’ll figure out what’s next for Conor.”
The fight this weekend that could play a factor in McGregor’s return is a lightweight showdown between former interim champion Tony Ferguson and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who meet on the main card at UFC 238 from Chicago.
If Ferguson is victorious, he would be on an unprecedented 12-fight win streak and denying him a shot at the title would seem nearly impossible. As for Cerrone, he’s rattled off two straight victories since returning to lightweight and one more over Ferguson would certainly put him in that same title talk conversation.
Then again, McGregor remains the biggest draw in the sport and his first fight against Nurmagomedov ended up as the most successful pay-per-view in UFC history so there’s no way to discount the chance that he could leap frog everybody to get another shot at the title.
“I could, I absolutely could [see a rematch],” White said when pressed about the possibility of Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor 2.
Right now, McGregor remains on the sidelines with no definitive return date locked down yet.
White had originally planned for McGregor to return this summer but with all of the major cards booked from now until September, it seems unlikely that he will book his next fight until sometime in October or later.
“He’s training,” White said about McGregor. “Obviously we’ll sit back and we’ll watch how this whole thing plays out with these fights and see where Conor fits in and what he wants to do next.”