Conor McGregor is ready to return to the Octagon, and the former champion in two UFC divisions has a date and location in mind for the fight. However, he won't reveal who his opponent will be.
McGregor told reporters at a news conference Thursday, Oct. 24, in Moscow that he will fight Jan. 18 in Las Vegas's T-Mobile Arena. Although he said he knows whom he'll fight, he would not reveal the name because, he said, UFC would "flip" it. ESPN reported that Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje were the top two possibilities, with Cerrone the more likely choice.
"I have agreed the date with the company," McGregor said (via MMA Junkie) during a promotional event for Parimatch, a Russian betting website. "As for the opponent, I have the opponent's name. But for me, the game that I am in and from experience, if I was to give you people the name as I would love to do, I know the UFC would flip it, because they are a crafty company.
"So for me, here's this one. Ask the UFC who the opponent is because I do not give a [expletive] who the opponent is. Jan. 18, the return of 'The Notorious' Conor McGregor. Twelve weeks this Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada."
McGregor said he has already begun training for the fight, which he said will be the beginning of a "season" in which he intends to fight three times. After the January event, he intends to face the winner of the UFC 244 main event between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal on Nov. 2. Beyond that, he is eyeing a fight for the UFC lightweight title against the winner of a possible bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov, the champion, and Tony Ferguson.
For more than financial and athletic reasons, a rematch with Nurmagomedov is the goal for the 21-4 McGregor, who has not fought since losing by submission to the Dagestani fighter a year ago. That fight was marred by a post-bout brawl that resulted in UFC suspensions for both men. The bad blood between Nurmagomedov and McGregor extends at least as far back as April 2018, when McGregor attacked a bus containing Nurmagomedov and several other fighters in a backstage area of Barclays Center in Brooklyn a few days before UFC 223. McGregor eventually pleaded no contest to a count of disorderly conduct after that incident and was sentenced to community service. The run-up to their October 2018 fight was peppered with ugly insults, including McGregor accusing Nurmagomedov's manager of being a terrorist.
"That is the bout we want," McGregor, 31, said, referring to their "heated, heated rivalry." "We want this bout in Moscow. The people of Russia deserve this bout to take place. The people of the world deserve this bout to take place."
The Irishman has more frequently made headlines out of the Octagon the last couple of years and hasn't won an MMA bout since 2016, when he won the UFC lightweight title with a victory over Eddie Alvarez and became the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time. McGregor tried his hand at boxing the following years and lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. by TKO. This time, he swears he is focused on the goal of facing Nurmagomedov again, with the Jan. 18 bout "the beginning of my season."
"It is an inevitable rematch," McGregor said. "It is a rematch that I will come in sharp, fresh. I will have no injuries. I will have no alcohol, I will have no outside influences. I will be fully focused, exactly what the people deserve, exactly what the fans deserve, and we will settle it, once and for all."
It is not clear whether outside legal issues could factor into his schedule. In early October, he was charged with an assault after an April incident in which video showed him punching a man in a Dublin pub. In March, McGregor was arrested in Miami on strong-arm robbery and criminal mischief charges after allegedly taking a man's cellphone and smashing it on the ground. Charges were subsequently dropped after the man, who settled a lawsuit with McGregor, reportedly stopped cooperating with authorities.
That incident occurred days after McGregor completed court-ordered community service in Brooklyn for the bus attack. He avoided felony charges by pleading guilty to a single count of disorderly conduct.
He also faces a sexual assault allegation in Ireland, The New York Times reported this week, that would be the second against him in 12 months. He has denied the allegations.
This article was written by Cindy Boren, a reporter for The Washington Post.