Conor McGregor is back, and he has his sights set on his old UFC lightweight world title.
The former two-weight world champion – who was stripped of both titles after failing to defend either belt – will face the man who succeeded him as UFC lightweight champion, undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, at UFC 229 in Las Vegas on 6 October.
The bout brings to a head a simmering rivalry that finally boiled over in unsavoury fashion at UFC 223 in Brooklyn, when McGregor and members of his entourage attacked a bus containing Nurmagomedov and other UFC fighters following media day at the Barclays Center.
McGregor threw a loading trolley into the bus window, sending glass showering into the bus, injuring lightweight contender Michael Chiesa and former flyweight title challenger Ray Borg.
McGregor faced 12 criminal charges as a direct result of the incident, but had his charges reduced after a plea deal saw him plead guilty to disorderly conduct.
It meant McGregor was instructed to undertake anger management sessions and take part in community service activities. Crucially, it also meant his US visa would be unblemished, allowing him to continue to travel freely to and from the United States.
Following the resolution of McGregor’s legal situation, UFC officials moved quickly to secure McGregor’s signature for what will be one of the biggest fights in UFC history, as the Irishman returns to action in a bid to reclaim the title he never lost in the octagon.
He’ll face Dagestan’s Nurmagomedov, a tough, gritty grappler who is arguably the most dominant athlete in the UFC today.
The 29-year-old is undefeated with a record of 26-0 and captured the title with a unanimous decision win over late replacement Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 when original opponent and then-interim champion Tony Ferguson sustained a freak injury during fight week.
Now the hottest rivalry in mixed martial arts will be settled inside the octagon as Nurmagomedov and McGregor face off for the gold in Las Vegas.
The bout will mark the first time McGregor has fought since winning the UFC lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in New York back in November 2016. That victory saw McGregor make history as the UFC’s first-ever simultaneous two-weight world champion.
But the Dubliner was later stripped of both titles after failing to defend either belt, as he instead took on Floyd Mayweather in a megabucks boxing match last August.
McGregor’s huge earnings from the Mayweather fight led some to doubt whether the 30-year-old still had the same enthusiasm to return to the octagon.
But Friday night’s news has put those thoughts to bed, with McGregor set to return in the biggest bout in his UFC career.
Nurmagomedov vs McGregor was the biggest announcement during a packed press conference as the UFC unveiled a host of huge fights for the remainder of 2018.
UFC president Dana White initially swerved questions about whether the fight had been booked, as the press conference continued with the fighters in attendance fielding questions from the media.
But once the press conference came to an end, White finished with a casual introduction to a final piece of video, which confirmed the Las Vegas bout.
The biggest fight in UFC history is on, and we have just two months to wait. Let the pre-fight hype begin…