Months after announcing for the second time in his career that he was retiring from mixed martial arts, former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor confirmed this week that he will be returning to the sport early next year.
As reported by MMA Fighting, the outspoken 31-year-old fighter made the announcement on Thursday morning at a press conference in Moscow, where he revealed most of the pertinent information for his tentative return but held off on naming a specific opponent.
“I would like to announce the return of ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor will take place on January 18th in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
Prior to revealing the above information, McGregor dropped the name of the man who defeated him last year at UFC 229 — reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov — but explained that he has no immediate plans to fight “The Eagle,” telling reporters that his bitter rival is someone who is known for avoiding risk, a “known pullout” who he won’t bother to wait for. He did, however, hint at the possibility of their rematch taking place at some point in the future.
As far as the identity of his next opponent is concerned, McGregor teased that he knows the name of the person he will be fighting, but explained why he will not be announcing it just yet.
“[F]rom experience, if I was to give you people the name — which I would love to do — I know the UFC would flip it because they are a crafty company. For me, here’s this one, ask the UFC who the opponent is because I do not give a f*ck who the opponent is.”
In a tweet shared on Thursday, MMA journalist Ariel Helwani wrote that Justin Gaethje and Donald Cerrone are among the top candidates for McGregor’s next opponent, with Cerrone standing out in particular as the current “frontrunner.”
Following McGregor’s press conference, UFC president Dana White admitted that there are plans to get the Irishman back in the octagon on the date he specified, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. However, White clarified that January 18 is merely a target date at this point, stressing that “no deals are even close to being signed.”
As recalled by ABC News Australia, McGregor took to Twitter in March to inform his fans that he would be retiring from mixed martial arts, seemingly doubling down on his retirement claims in July when he tweeted that his fans wouldn’t believe him if he said he really did call it quits. Prior to that, the former two-division champion announced in April 2016 that he “decided to retire young,” only for him to return to the octagon to defeat Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in August of that year.