One year on from UFC 229, are Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov destined to fight one more time?
Midway or so through the fourth round of the most watched pay-per-view in MMA history, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov latched on a vice-like grip around the jaw of a demoralized, beaten down Conor McGregor.
The tap which came moments later should have signaled the closing of a chapter; a definitive end-point to a deeply caustic feud between the two which saw all manner of insults, teammates being confronted and buses being attacked. McGregor's concession of the bout, when it came, instead caused a new battlefield in the McGregor/Khabib saga to be set when the Russian fighter leapt form the cage to attack members of McGregor's entourage.Also on rt.com Khabib vs McGregor 2: UFC lightweight champ says Russian rematch makes financial sense, would be record-breaker
All hell broke loose. Inside the cage, some of Nurmagomedov's training partners took to attacking McGregor who, as you might expect, retaliated. Outside of it, Nurmagomedov set his sights on McGregor's training partner, Bellator fighter Dillon Danis.
UFC president Dana White proclaimed it the UFC's darkest day, in language starkly similar to the UFC's previous darkest day - McGregor attacking a bus containing Nurmagomedov in a Brooklyn car some months prior.
Fight promoters, however, are a different type of animal.
The footage of McGregor hurling a dolly through the windows of that bus were later splashed over official promotional material being used to push the fight - much like, one must assume, Nurmagomedov's actions and the violence which ensued at UFC 229 will also be.
Both fighters have been ramping up the extent to which they have spoken about a rematch in recent months. McGregor has been vocal on Twitter for the UFC to "book my rematch in Moscow", a suggestion which also seems to have come from the Nurmagomedov camp, but logistics suggest that the UFC wouldn't entertain anywhere outside of Las Vegas to house what is the biggest money-spinning fight on their books.
The questions also must be asked as to how much appetite there is to see this fight for a second time. Nurmagomedov has stated that Tony Ferguson deserves the next opportunity, but after that? McGregor is certainly game too, but are the fans?
The short answer to that is a 'yes', but it comes this time with some caveats. The various escalations in the two fighters' relationship was enthralling at first but soon diluted itself into brash insults and macho posturing, as both men refused to yield an inch to each other.
This is what, one suspects, fight fans could do without. For years, some sections of MMA fans have bemoaned the sport's uneasy relationship with professional wrestling and some fighter's unnecessary, tacked-on gimmicks used to promote themselves. Neither McGregor nor Khabib, two of the world's best fighters, require this extra baggage.
There is most certainly an appetite to see these two face each other in the octagon again, but this time let's make it about technique, heart, determination and nothing else. We've seen that other part already.Also on rt.com 'If McGregor wants it, Moscow is waiting': Khabib's father says UFC champion wants rematch on Russian soil in 2020