Conor McGregor will finally get back in the Octagon on Oct. 6 in Las Vegas, when he takes on UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
UFC President Dana White announced the matchup, which will be the main event for UFC 229, at a press conference on Friday.
McGregor Returns after Two-Year Absence
McGregor (21-3) has been out of the MMA world for nearly two years, having last fought in November 2016. Since then, he�s managed to stay in the headlines for a variety of reasons, ranging from his heavily hyped boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in August 2017 to his shocking attack on a bus during the weekend of UFC 223.
At one time, McGregor was the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, first winning the featherweight championship and later claiming the lightweight belt in his last UFC fight. However, he has since been stripped of both titles due to inactivity.
In the meantime, Nurmagomedov (26-0) has become the dominant force in the lightweight division. The undefeated Russian claimed the vacant title with an easy unanimous decision win over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in April. The fight against McGregor will be his first title defense.
Feud Brewing Since April Bus Attack
A fight between Nurmagomedov and McGregor would be a huge draw no matter what the other circumstances are, but the backstory behind the fight should draw even more eyeballs to the bout.
In the week leading up to UFC 223, Nurmagomedov had a confrontation at a Brooklyn hotel with Artem Lobov, a teammate of McGregor�s. It was that incident that seemingly sparked McGregor�s wild attack at the UFC 223 media day, as Nurmagomedov was on the bus when the incident occurred. The attack resulted in several injuries, forcing UFC officials to scramble to put together a card that weekend.
McGregor would eventually agree to a plea deal on July 26, which resulted in no jail time and no criminal record for the 30-year-old Irish fighter.
At the press conference, White was already busy promoting what should be the UFC�s biggest fight of the year.
�This is a very important fight for both fighters,� White told ESPN�s Brett Okamoto. �For Khabib, who is undefeated and who is looked at as one of the best fighters in the world, beating Conor is massive for him.�
Despite all of his accomplishments, White suggested that many fans still underrate McGregor�s abilities, a perception that could start to change if he hands Nurmagomedov his first loss.
�Everybody thinks because he speaks so well and gets so crazy and everything, it makes him sort of less of a fighter,� White told ESPN. �It�s the weirdest thing I�ve ever seen. When you talk about pound-for-pound, best in the world, this is a guy who is actually living proof for pound-for-pound.�
Both fighters have paths to winning the fight, and who wins the clash of styles could dictate who ends up with the title belt. While McGregor is considered a powerful striker, Nurmagomedov is known for his world-class wrestling ability.
Out of the gate, sportsbooks around the world are giving Nurmagomedov a slight edge in the fight. Bovada lists the current champion at -160, while McGregor is a +130 underdog.