After nearly two years spent battling boxers, buses, and the police blotter, Conor McGregor (21-3) makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 229.
When the Irish firebrand faces off against Russian rival Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) on October 6 – at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada – the UFC Lightweight Championship will finally be on the line.
McGregor’s last appearance in the UFC saw him claim the Lightweight title by beating Eddie Alvarez, but that was way back in November of 2016.
Since then, McGregor spent the better part of a year hyping his “super fight” with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather – a bout McGregor lost handily. He lost the Lightweight title too, after the UFC stripped McGregor of the belt earlier this year due to prolonged inactivity.
The undefeated Nurmagomedov had originally been slated to fight Alvarez for the title, but UFC head honcho Dana White scratched him for the star power provided by McGregor.
Nurmagomedov later called the UFC a “freak show,” an accusation borne out when McGregor and his entourage staged a now infamous attack on the Russian’s bus ahead of UFC 223. With the Lightweight title vacated, Nurmagomedov stepped in to become the new champ by defeating Al Iaquinta.
UFC 229 will be his first title defense, and according to online sportsbook Bovada, Nurmagomedov is a (-155) favorite to keep the crown from McGregor (+125).
While the spotlight certainly shines brightest on McGregor, it’s Nurmagomedov that boasts an unblemished record in the Octagon.
Over his 10-year mixed martial arts career, the native of Dagestan, Russia has never lost a bout – stringing together 26 consecutive victories. That spotless record includes eight knockouts, eight submissions, and 10 decisions – including a unanimous card over Iaquinta to win the belt.
McGregor, meanwhile, is 21-3 with 18 knockouts, but he was beaten by Nate Diaz via rear naked choke back in March of 2016.
Given McGregor’s ring rust, Nurmagomedov’s flawless record makes him the clear (-155) favorite.
Betting on the Russian to win via decision offers a (+400) price, while a decision in McGregor’s favor pays out at (+900). Bettors can back Nurmagomedov to knock the Irishman out at (+300), but McGregor’s heavy hands make him the (+165) favorite to end things early.
Nurmagomedov is priced at (+205) to make his man tap out, but if you’re looking for a longshot, McGregor’s odds to score just his second career submission victory stand at (+2500).
During a pre-fight press conference defined by McGregor swilling his own sponsored brand of Irish Whiskey, the wordy warrior went back to his usual well of insults by speaking ill of Nurmagomedov’s homeland of Dagestan.
Asked about the verbal abuse afterward, the undefeated champ shrugged McGregor’s comments off – while offering a few pointed jabs of his own:
“At press conference, he look like drunk guy. It’s crazy. It’s very interesting.
How you want to fight when you use lot of drugs and whiskey? How you want to fight 25 minutes? This is not boxing, brother. I’m going to be close all the time. This is not a distance fight with Nate Diaz. This is completely different.”
UFC 229 will be defined by Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor, but bettors have four more matches on the main card, along with a slate of six preliminaries:
Tony Ferguson (-350) vs. Anthony Pettis (+265) – Lightweight (Co-Main Event)
Ovince Saint Preux (+170) vs. Dominick Reyes (-210) – Light Heavyweight
Derrick Lewis (+150) vs. Alexander Volkov (-185) – Heavyweight
Michelle Waterson (EVEN) vs. Felice Herrig (-130) – Women’s Strawweight
Sean O’Malley (-305) vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez (+235) – Featherweight
Sergio Pettis (-150) vs. Jussier Formiga (+120) – Flyweight
Scott Holtzman (+200) vs. Alan Patrick (-260) – Lightweight
Ryan LaFlare (-140) vs. Tony Martin (+110) – Welterweight
Lina Lansberg (+155) vs. Yana Kunitskaya (-190) – Women’s Bantamweight
Gray Maynard (+180) vs. Nik Lentz (-230) – Lightweight