But after his return to the Octagon ended in a second-round TKO defeat to Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor’s chance of a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov is in tatters.
And the Russian let rip with a brutal take-down, first in private with UFC president Dana White, and then on his own social media platform.
McGregor waxed lyrical in the build-up to the Poirier bout, saying he wanted a rematch, while Nurmagomedov has continued to refuse the offers of a second match-up.
Nurmagomedov’s father claimed it would take $145 million for his son to rematch Conor McGregor.
White was seen in a video released earlier this week trying to encourage Nurmagomedov to come out retirement to fight McGregor.
“This fight with Poirier,” White said. “[It] is trending bigger than the fight with you on Conor on pay per view.
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“Imagine what you and Conor would do in another f***ing fight. I’m just saying!”
White, however, admitted that Nurmagomedov thought he was streets ahead of any rivals in the lightweight division.
White said: “I did talk to Khabib and he said to me: ‘Dana, be honest with yourself, I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys’. It doesn’t sound very positive.
“What he said was what I told you guys before – he won’t hold the division up.
“He’s retired. He’s already retired, but I’m the one who’s trying to get him to do one more.”
Nurmagomedov took to Twitter after the fight to take a swipe at McGregor, writing: “This is what happened, when you change your team, leave the sparring partners who made you a champion and sparring with little kids, far away from reality.”
It prompted McGregor to hit right back in the post-fight press conference with a jab of his own, calling on Nurmagomedov to fight him once more if he was in the mood for taking shots.
“If he wants to have his disrespectful comments, come back and let’s go again my man…. that’s fighting talk. If you’re coming back, come back. You try and do it,” he said.
Nurmagomedov was also called out by Michael Chandler after his win over Kiwi Dan Hooker, the debutant said: “Beat me – if you can.”
But White says he thinks there is a glimmer of hope that Nurmagomedov could be persuaded to return to action.
“I’m going to speak to Khabib and see if he wants to defend that title and if he doesn’t I won’t push him any more,” White said.
“He said Dana be honest with yourself, he wanted to see something spectacular.
“He hates Conor, I know he wanted Conor to lose but there has to be a little piece of him inside that the fight with him and Conor would be one of the biggest fights.
“Our numbers are off the charts this week, I was saying that Khabib-Conor could be the No. 3 fight in all combat sports, today I felt it could be No. 1 – bigger than McGregor-Mayweather.”