Conor McGregor showed up at Barclays Center on Thursday ostensibly to “crash” UFC 223’s media day. While the fallout from the incident is ongoing, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t all a choreographed stunt designed to set up McGregor’s return to the Octagon.
McGregor was supposedly upset that UFC 223 headliner Khabib Nurmagomedov had an altercation with McGregor training partner and friend Artem Lobov. During that confrontation, Nurmagomedov called out McGregor, demanding to know where he was. So, McGregor flew in from Ireland and went looking for Khabib at the end of the press conference. Madness ensued.
McGregor and Khabib have been circling each other for years, so forgive me for feeling like this was all a setup to promote a potential fight between the two. Throw in the fact that Nurmagomedov will win McGregor’s old lightweight championship if he beats Max Holloway Saturday night, and this has a great story baked in.
So let’s break this down: Khabib and Conor look like logical future opponents for years; Conor gets his lightweight title stripped for inactivity; Khabib confront’s McGregor’s friend and training partner; McGregor shows up to confront Khabib, who hides on his bus.
Then, if you play it out further: Khabib wins the lightweight title at UFC 223 on Saturday; McGregor calls him out; fight promotes itself. It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out.
While UFC president Dana White is acting furious at McGregor, unless he cuts the former champ from the promotion, you can be damn sure that’s feigned anger. There was absolutely nothing notable about the UFC 223 press conference until McGregor showed up, now everyone is talking about it. White isn’t that dumb.
Lobov has been pulled from the UFC 223 card as a result of the melee, but that doesn’t mean anything. He’s a fringe fighter at best and that move won’t cost White anything. This is all about building McGregor’s next fight, which will almost certainly be against Khabib for his old belt.