War in Nevada: The Notorious One and The Eagle collide
Why Conor vs. Khabib is the biggest fight in MMA history
By Colin Macgillivray, Arts Editor
Nearly three years ago, at a pre-fight press conference hyping the monumental showdown between former 145-pound champion Jose Aldo and the notorious challenger, Conor McGregor, a fan in attendance asked the latter about what he would do after potentially beating the former.
“When Aldo’s chin hits the floor in four, who are you going to move up and take the belt from at 155?” Asked the fan, fully confident that his Irish idol would usurp Aldo, who was unbeaten for more than a decade in the featherweight division.
McGregor, in his now typical brash style, responded without missing a beat.
“Whoever has it.”
The fan quickly clarified, urging McGregor to chime in on who he thought would be the lightweight, or 155-pound weight division, champion he would have to cross paths with if he did decide to move up a weight class and challenge for that title.
“I think Khabib Nurmagomedov will take the lightweight belt,” replied McGregor.
A multitude of things have happened since McGregor nonchalantly declared Khabib as the man who would hold the lightweight belt, but on Oct. 6, McGregor will challenge the undefeated lightweight champion, Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas for the lightweight strap.
To fully understand why this is the biggest fight of the year and arguably the biggest fight in the history of mixed martial arts, we need to take a look back at what has happened since McGregor answered that fan’s question.
The Notorious One
Some incredibly exciting, shocking and captivating moments have happened since 2015 in the wild world of the UFC. 30-year-old McGregor has been at the centre of the majority of those moments.
But, when we look at what McGregor has accomplished in the past three years strictly from a mixed martial arts perspective, the man has done incredibly well for himself.
From knocking out the aforementioned featherweight king, Aldo, in 13 seconds at the end of 2015, to capturing the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez in 2016, McGregor was able to declare himself as the first fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold a championship belt in two weight classes. It’s no easy feat.
McGregor also competed in two of the UFC’s highest grossing pay-per-view events of all time, against the bold and brash Nate Diaz both times. Their first clash at UFC 196 touted one of the most shocking finishes I’ve witnessed as a fight fan, where Diaz was able to choke McGregor out, leading to the latter’s first loss during his UFC tenure. At UFC 202, the two men met again, with McGregor coming out victorious, slightly edging out Diaz in one of the most entertaining fights I’ve ever seen.
McGregor also dipped his feet into the world of boxing, making more than $100 million in a losing effort against undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather.
Regardless whether you love him, hate him or dispute his route to championship glory and claim that he was gifted multiple championship opportunities, there is no denying that McGregor is a phenomenal mixed martial artist and perhaps an even more skilled verbal assassin. His trash talk is legendary, making every time he steps inside the UFC’s octagon a sight to behold. It is even more exciting this time due to his opponent.
The undefeated Eagle
In modern mixed martial arts, few fighters can say they are undefeated. Canadian legend Georges St-Pierre has two losses on his record, while both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, two others who can definitely stake their claim for the greatest of all time monicker, have losses as well.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has 26 professional victories. He has never lost. He hasn’t even lost a round.
The Russian superstar has absolutely dominated every opponent he has been locked inside a cage with. Known for his smashing style, where he will take an opponent down, tire them out and reign down hellish fists until they are unable to continue, Nurmagomedov is a force to be reckoned with.
The man was born and bred to excel as a fighter. If you don’t believe me, get on the internet and search up a video where a nine-year-old Nurmagomedov is wrestling an actual bear for strength training. It’s absolutely insane.
Although the history of the lightweight title over the past three years is messy to say the least, all that really matters is that McGregor was once the champion, stripped of his belt due to inactivity and Nurmagomedov came and captured the title himself.
Dating back since McGregor first mentioned Nurmago-medov’s name in that press conference, the two have engaged in multiple wars of words. Nurmagomedov has ridiculed McGregor on numerous occasions for losing to Diaz. He’s called him a quitter, a coward and has vowed to smash his face against the canvas when the two finally meet. Khabib really doesn’t like Conor.
On the other hand, Conor really doesn’t like Khabib. McGregor even went as far to say that he would fly to Russia to beat him in front of his own countrymen. It’s relatively tame trash talk, with fighters going back and forth like this all the time, but McGregor made the rivalry personal and all the more exciting back in April.
McGregor, despite not being scheduled to fight, flew to New York with his crew and subsequently attacked a bus containing several fighters, including Nurmagomedov. McGregor threw a dolly at the bus, shattered a window, injured several fighters and truly kicked off one of the most heated rivalries in the sport.
Yes, McGregor was arrested for the assault and fight fans everywhere were praying that he would be released so that he would finally be able to fight Nurmagomedov. Well, on Oct. 6, their wish will be granted.
Who’s going to win?
In the end, none of the backstory really matters. All it really does is help promoters build compelling fights, with the main event on Oct. 6 acting as perhaps the greatest culmination of a three year long feud.
But, people aren’t tuning in for history, they will be tuning in to see two extremely talented fighters go to war.
On the surface, Nurmago-medov is definitely the favourite to come out on top. He’s undefeated, he seems unfazed by McGregor’s mind games and he’s supremely talented at wearing his opponents down until they are too tired to continue. The whole reason McGregor lost to Diaz is because he was exhausted.
Yet, McGregor shouldn’t be ignored. As a fight fan, I’ve consistently doubted McGregor as a fighter and time and time again he has proved me wrong. He is a phenomenal striker with supreme knockout power in his left hand. If he can somehow keep the fight standing, he most definitely has a shot to win.
There is also the fact that Nurmagomedov hasn’t been tested by phenomenal fighters in the same way McGregor has. McGregor has cleanly beaten two former champions, one current champion and multiple other fighters who are ranked in the top five of their respective division. Nurmagomedov has only beat one top five fighter in his weight class.
Plus, if Nurmagomedov loses focus and McGregor somehow gets into his head, this fight could be a first round knockout for the Irishman.
Nonetheless, this fight is exciting for diehard fans and casuals alike. It’s unpredictable, almost certainly will be entertaining and a spectacle in and of itself. So, on Oct. 6, whether you care about mixed martial arts or not, check out McGregor vs. Khabib. It will be worth it.