If Conor McGregor wants a rematch with Khabib, it’s time for him to show up… and win
To be fair to him, it’s an approach that has largely worked for him ever since he defeated Chad Mendes to win the UFC interim featherweight title at UFC 189 back in 2015. It took him all the way to the undisputed 145-pound title, two big-money fights with Nate Diaz, then two-division glory at the UFC’s first-ever show at Madison Square Garden at UFC 205 in November 2016.Also on rt.com 'Book my rematch for Moscow': McGregor reacts to Khabib victory at UFC 242
But a lot of water has run under the bridge since then. Sure, he banked a colossal payday in a showpiece boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, but in mixed martial arts terms, his career in the cage has ground to a near standstill while his conduct outside it has drawn a plethora of negative headlines.
Titles have been left undefended, then stripped. Referees have been shoved and commissioners slapped. Buses have been attacked and innocent fighters have been injured.
And that's not all. More recently, a mobile phone has been smashed and a pubgoer punched for the heinous crime of declining a glass of McGregor's whiskey. And that’s all without the unsavory rhetoric and trash talk served up by the Dubliner last time he prepared to face Khabib at UFC 229.
That fight remains McGregor’s only appearance in the UFC since that win at MSG, and it didn’t go well for him. Khabib dropped, dominated and eventually submitted the Irishman in a one-sided performance as he stamped his authority all over the former champion in Las Vegas.
McGregor has fought just once in the octagon since 2016 – a fight he lost convincingly – yet still believes he deserves a world title rematch. The truth is, in sporting terms, he simply doesn’t deserve one.
Tony Ferguson is the clear number-one contender to face Khabib next – a fact reinforced by both Khabib and Poirier in the lead-up to their fight this past weekend at UFC 242.
Meanwhile, Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje are set to face off next weekend in the main event of UFC Vancouver. The winner of that bout should sit behind Ferguson in the queue. Then there’s Al Iaquinta and Paul Felder, who could also be one or two wins away from having a legitimate claim to a title shot themselves.
Like McGregor, Iaquinta tried and failed to beat Khabib, but the New Yorker fared noticeably better than the Irishman against “The Eagle” as he took Khabib the distance at UFC 223, despite stepping in on just one day’s notice for the fight. Also like McGregor, he is coming off a loss. A matchup between the pair would seem to make a lot of sense.
Another option may be Felder, whose crowd-pleasing fighting style might be seen as an ideal match for McGregor. And following his hard-earned win over Edson Barboza in Abu Dhabi this weekend, “The Irish Dragon” could be a viable option to face McGregor early next year.
McGregor fans will doubtless mock the suggestion of their man having to drop down to fight a Top 5 opponent, rather than jump straight back in with the defending champion. But when you haven’t won a fight since November 2016, things move on and you’re left having to play catch-up.
If he takes on someone like Iaquinta or Felder and wins, then it will be full steam ahead for the McGregor hype train. But until he steps in and beats another of the division’s contenders, he shouldn’t be given another shot.
Because as it stands, his inactivity inside the cage – and his conduct outside it – certainly don’t warrant one.Also on rt.com Tony Ferguson, not Conor McGregor, is the sole remaining challenge to Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC