Dubai: The craziest thing could happen at UFC 242 in the purpose-built Yas Arena on September 7 should anything — just anything — happen to any one of the main men featuring in the headline act — lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov or interim title-holder, Dustin Poirier.
In the event of either fighter pulling out, due to an ill-timed injury or for whatever other reason, Irish brawler Conor McGregor could step-in as the super-sub.
And that news has come from none other than Mr UFC himself, Dana White, the all-powerful President of the Las Vegas-based American mixed martial arts promotion company, who are the responsible for bring the UFC back to the UAE since April 2010.
Speaking during the UFC 240 post-fight press conference in Edmonton, Canada, late last month, White hinted that McGregor could step in as a last-minute replacement should something go wrong with Khabib or Poirier.
“Yeah, I talked to him last week, he wants to come back.” White said about McGregor, who has not fought since he was submitted by Khabib at UFC 228 in October 2018. “Really what he’s doing is looking to see how everything plays out in September.
“I was just thinking out there, as of right now ... Khabib and Poirier are fighting. You know how this business works: anything can happen and it usually does. So I think he’s just sort of waiting to see how it all plays out and does he have an opportunity somewhere to jump in and make something happen.”
So don’t rule out the possibility of McGregor entering the octagon as a replacement for either Khabib, who has a reputation of not making the schedule, or Poirier, who pulled out of his UFC 230 fight against Nate Diaz due to a hip injury.
Khabib took ill after making the weight and even pulled out at the last minute of his interim UFC 209 lightweight title fight against Tony Ferguson.
UFC fighters are known to push themselves to the max during training for fights, so it is not usual to get injured, ill or just over-worked.
So the big question is whether McGregor, who is technically retired, is actually prepared to step in at Yas Arena and face either Khabib or Poirier.
Even though he has been absent from mainstream UFC negotiating, McGregor has been proclaiming his willingness to return to UFC on his own terms — an ownership stake. He has even offered to take on stakeholder, actor Mark Wahlberg, in a fight.
Wahlberg is a huge fight fan and is best known for his portrayal of Micky Ward, the American boxer who is widely known for his trilogy of fights with Arturo Gatti, having played Ward in the Hollywood biopic, The Fight
Earlier this year McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh gave ESPN some insights into his fighter’s plans.
“I think what has come back around is the love of the sport,” Kavanagh said. “He loves doing it, he loves training, and he loves competing.”
Which makes us believe that McGregor is playing a watching game, and that his much-anticipated return to the octagon could happen earlier than expected, and perhaps even at UAE 242 in Abu Dhabi.