Conor McGregor has revealed that he was in talks to fight Justin Gaethje this summer before an injury forced him to postpone his comeback.
“I believe it was leaning towards Justin Gaethje at that time,” McGregor told Ariel Helwani in an extensive new interview on ESPN.
The plan had been for the fight to take place at UFC 240, which at the time was pencilled in for Madison Square Garden in New York City, but ultimately ended up taking place in Edmunton, Canada.
However, the fight was scrapped due to McGregor breaking his hand in sparring.
This was not long after McGregor had engaged in a four-round boxing exhibition match with up and coming Irish boxer Michael McGrane in his hometown of Crumlin, which he said he’d undertaken in order to rekindle relationships with his old coaches and put on a show for fans who couldn’t come to see him in his high-profile fights in places like Las Vegas.
After that McGregor wanted to also get back to work at SBG with his long-time MMA coach John Kavanagh and so another sparring session was booked with another young fighter, and that’s when things went wrong.
“We scheduled a spar with another up-and-comer but the gloves are so small, the room for injury and damage is so high,” McGregor said.
“We went into the spar and although it was scheduled to be a spar, it wasn’t, it was another bout on the record, there were crowds in attendance.
“I caught the guy with a right hand and he dropped and I went down on him with an emotional left hand and my whole hand went.
“I had to get surgery on it, it’s been a psychological battle with the famous left paw, but it was the right hand which put him down in the first place. I’ve been doing great work with the right hand.”
McGregor went on to reveal that he’s now well on the way to recovery and is close to returning to full training.
“Originally I couldn’t grapple until September but I saw my surgeon and he said I can grapple now so I’m going to go back into that. I haven’t stopped kicking and I haven’t stopped with my conditioning, so lets get it going now – I’m excited.”
McGregor also discussed potential opponents for his comeback fight, and while everyone from Max Holloway to Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, Jorge Masvidal, Jose Aldo and even Frankie Edgar were all mentioned as worthy adversary’s, it’s clear that ‘The Notorious’ still hungers for a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“[I want] the return fight, you know I want my world title fight, I want that redemption,” McGregor told ESPN.
“The camp was incorrect. I learned so much from that.
“Knowing the commitment I had in that camp, and knowing the performance I put on… he ran away for that first round, he didn’t throw a punch. He shot for the legs before he threw a punch.
“That first round I should have been talking to Herb [Dean, the referee]. He says he was talking to me in the cage, there wasn’t a whisper out of him until he ended up in a dominant position.
“The only reason he ended up in that dominant position is because I walked around in a disrespectful way towards him because he was just running around the cage. I switched off for a millisecond and he got that lucky shot. Even after he got that lucky shot, although it was a beautiful shot, I bounced back up and engaged and what did he do? He shot again.
“There’s many great things I can take from that, and I can come back and avenge that.”
However, McGregor has made it clear that he’s not going to hang around waiting for Nurmagomedov and signalled his interest in returning before the end of the year against whoever the opponent may be.
“I just want to compete now, lets get me back in the mix.
“Make no mistake, the skills are there for me and I know what I can bring to the table. I am very excited to show my fans what I can do.
“I do this for my fans and I look forward to my triumphant return. I have a great relationship with the UFC; there is no dispute, we are all eager to get this back on track.”