UFC President Dana White, in the strongest endorsement yet that Conor McGregor retains the passion for fighting that made him the organization’s most prominent athlete, said Thursday , “there hasn’t been anything like this since Ali.”
White spoke to the Los Angeles Times hours before the final UFC 229 news conference as former champion McGregor ends his almost two-year layoff from the octagon to fight lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
In daring to end his hiatus and selecting Nurmagomedov as the foe, McGregor (21-3) risks a defeat like the one that sent former UFC star Ronda Rousey to retirement two years ago.
All of the conflicts between Conor McGregor and the fighter who replaced him as UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, come to a head Saturday night when they step into the T-Mobile Arena octagon in pursuit of the same glory.
For the power-puncher McGregor, returning to the UFC at age 30 after taking nearly two years off, the opportunity at UFC 229 is to reestablish himself — in what he said could be a $50-million payday — as the organization’s biggest draw and most entertaining star.
Russia’s far more stoic wrestler Nurmagomedov (26-0) is a slight betting favorite, and a victory would extend the success that encouraged the UFC to expand the international reach of its roster.