At this point there’s enough bad blood between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor to fill the great meteor crater in the Arizona desert, and that’s a good thing if you’re looking to set up a rematch. But bad blood alone isn’t enough to forget about the one-sidedness of the first act. Nurmagomedov owned the main event at UFC 229 — essentially from horn to horn — and got a pretty clear finish. If there was one thing that stood out on Saturday night, it was that McGregor’s swagger isn’t the same when he’s fighting from his butt. He’s much better on his feet, a comfort that Nurmagomedov will never afford him.
Still, it’s understandable that McGregor, a competitor with considerable sway in the UFC’s business operations, would like a mulligan. Why wouldn’t he? Fifty million dollars and a memory-searing post-fight brawl have a way of inviting sequels. Now that he has faced Nurmagomedov once and gained first-hand experience, perhaps he thinks he can make the adjustments to change the outcome. All of that is easy to understand. He simply wouldn’t be Conor McGregor if he didn’t think that way.
But rematches work best when they become a function of necessity or — at very least — get booked in the spirit of resolution. The first fight was clear enough that a second fight would just be to appease a frustrated party, and to telegraph a shit ton of money. Besides, there are two words that endanger Khabib Nurmagomedov’s reign as the lightweight champion right now, which actually have nothing to do with the Irish.
You know, the (no longer) interim champion who shreds people like a hawkbill blade and leaves them in pools of their own blood. If the main event didn’t top off with a melee, here’s guessing the headlines would be writing themselves this week. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson — pending the any disciplinary measures the NAC might take against for former for his part in the melee — should be booked once again to do battle. The fifth time’s the charm. It’s true that it hasn’t worked in the past, but it has grown in magnitude with each booking — and it is the only logical fight where doubt would be cast on the outcome.