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19 Jan, 2020 09:16

‘It will be one hell of a spectacle’: McGregor talks up Moscow bout with Khabib as UFC boss Dana White says rematch IS NEXT

No sooner had Conor McGregor seen off Donald Cerrone than the Irishman was training his sights again on Khabib Nurmagomedov, insisting he would venture to the homeland of his Russian nemesis for a rematch.

McGregor made his octagon comeback in some style in Las Vegas on Saturday night, destroying 'Cowboy' Cerrone just 40 seconds into their welterweight main event at UFC 246. 

Also on rt.com Conor McGregor crushes Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds at UFC 246

The comprehensive nature of that victory meant the Irishman went some way to erasing the painful memories from his last outing at the same venue, when he suffered a fourth-round submission defeat to UFC lightweight ruler Khabib 15 months previously. 

McGregor has made no secret of the fact that he is hell-bent on avenging his defeat to the Russian, reiterating that desire at his post-fight press conference at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday - even saying he wanted any rematch to happen in Moscow. 

“I love Russia, I love the Russian people. I went to Moscow recently, they’re such a great nation and they’re passionate about the sport of mixed martial arts," McGregor said. 

"They’re so passionate about myself and they support me greatly, they support Proper Number Twelve Irish whiskey.

“They know a good liquid, they know a good spirit. So they are a good-spirited people. What a place, it would be like something out of a Rocky movie. So I’d be very eager to do that."

Indeed, it was on a promotional trip to Moscow back in October when McGregor announced his octagon comeback plans for 2020, which he said included a rematch with Khabib. 

The first part of the Irishman's plan - beating Cerrone - has now been accomplished, although he admitted that UFC chiefs would likely push for any rematch with Khabib to take place in Las Vegas.   

“Dana [White] the hometown Vegas boy, I know he’d be eager to do that [fight in Vegas], I know the Vegas people will be campaigning for it. Let’s see what happens. I would love that [the Moscow fight]. I want to create spectacles for the people, and that’s one hell of a spectacle," McGregor said. 

“Even me going out there [to Moscow] that one time. The place shut down, the world took notice. Your man was saying I wasn’t allowed out there, I wasn’t supposed to be out there.

“They were running the streets screaming my name. So I’m more Russian than that man [Khabib]. I would love to go to Russia and compete there.”

Also on rt.com McGregor needs Khabib rematch in Russia next to continue ‘real life Rocky story’ after sensational UFC comeback

As the biggest money-spinner in the UFC ranks, McGregor is not a man short of options having made his octagon return in such spectacular fashion. 

MMA fans are clamouring for a fight with UFC 'BMF' Jorge Masvidal, who was the consensus fighter of the year in 2019, and who has said he would be keen to meet the Irishman.

But UFC Dana White has put the brakes on that notion, again signalling on Saturday night that he would prefer McGregor to have another shot at Khabib - who himself defends his lightweight title against Tony Ferguson in New York in April.

“There’s always somebody out there fun, and everybody wants to match up with Conor… When you look at what makes sense, Conor himself has said that going into the Khabib fight he had lots of stuff, lots of personal stuff, some stuff self-inflicted, he had injuries… He has been obsessed with getting that rematch, because he knows he wasn’t 100 percent right.

“When you look at Khabib, first of all, this kid’s 28-0, to go 28-0 in this sport is tough to do. This guy’s a world champion. After tonight, and with how Khabib won the first fight, and how famous Khabib has become since the first fight, we’re looking at Hagler-Hearns, Ali-Foreman, Ali-Frazier," White said. 

"This is a massive fight with global appeal. It’s the fight that you make. It’s the fight that makes sense, for the 155lbs title.

"If Conor and Masvidal fight, neither one of them has a title, although Conor does want his BMF title. He doesn’t have a world championship.

"Khabib’s the fight to make, it’s huge for his legacy too. If he beats Conor McGregor, then he beats Tony Ferguson, then he beats Conor McGregor again, this is how this kid retires, he’s 30-0 and he’s beaten all the best."     

A significant spanner in the works is that one main part of the equation - namely Khabib - has dismissed any notion of facing the Irishman again anytime soon.

The undefeated Russian said of McGregor's bout with Cerrone that it was a "minor-league" fight, and that McGregor would need to "win 10 fights in a row" to earn a rematch with him.     

Also on rt.com Who's next? Top 5 options for Conor McGregor after quick UFC 246 victory

There remains the considerable financial gain from a rematch, however, after the pair's first meeting in October 2018 smashed UFC pay-per-view-records, propelling Khabib to global stardom. 

Whatever happens, the successful return of 'The Notorious' has ensured 2020 has begun with a bang in the UFC, with the prospects intriguing from here on out.