During the UFC 260 press conference, UFC president Dana White commended Dustin Poirier for pursuing the trilogy fight against Conor McGregor instead of the lightweight title shot. However, White also mentioned that not accepting the McGregor rematch was the mistake that some other fighters made.
"Dustin wants the rematch and it's smart. It's what you should do. Take that rematch... It's a big fight for him. We've been in this position with others who've made the mistake of not taking that fight... and, you know... the biggest mistake of their lives," Dana White said.
Dana White did not mention the names of the fighters who refused the Conor McGregor rematch. However, those who have followed the sport closely over the years can quickly understand who the UFC president is referring to. Here are the names of the fighters who let go of the biggest opportunity of their lives by not accepting the rematch against Conor McGregor.
Khabib Nurmagomedov had no competitive interest in fighting Conor McGregor again
Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Conor McGregor convincingly at UFC 229. However, the beef between the megastars was not squashed even after the fight. Although the first fight was not a close affair by any means, the rematch between Khabib and McGregor had the potential to be the biggest fight in MMA history by a large margin. Conor McGregor and the UFC pursued the rematch in all possible ways but were met with stern refusal from Khabib Nurmagomedov up until his retirement. While speaking to the Russian media in December 2020, Khabib recited an Avarian proverb to express his disinterest in fighting Conor McGregor:
"There's no competitive interest. They're both (Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier) former champions and I choked them both out. I don't want to fight them. There is an Avarian proverb,'The horse doesn't run until the donkey wins'. Donkeys don't even compete in horse races. I have no interest in going against them," Khabib Nurmagomedov said.
A nice proverb? Yes. A smart financial decision? Not really.
Jose Aldo refused to step in against Conor McGregor at UFC 196
Conor McGregor's quick finish of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 fuelled speculation about how the fight would play out if Aldo did not rush forward. The opportunity to find that out was presented after Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of the super-fight with Conor McGregor at UFC 196. Jose Aldo was approached by the UFC to step in on short notice to fight Conor McGregor. Scarface refused to step in and the UFC eventually booked a fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. McGregor vs. Aldo 2 never materialized. While speaking to Ariel Helwani on MMA Hour, Aldo revealed that he refused the fight because he did not have enough time to train:
"Any professional needs time to train. It's not a cockfight where I go there and put my rooster to fight. It’s a high-level sport, I’m going there to do my job. When I have time to train, it can happen at any time, anywhere," Jose Aldo said.
Nate Diaz favored Dustin Poirier over Conor McGregor after UFC 257
Following Dustin Poirier's TKO win over Conor McGregor at UFC 257, Nate Diaz called out Poirier on social media for a fight and showed absolutely no interest in the trilogy fight with the Irishman. Upon being asked about the prospect of a trilogy fight during an interview with Ariel Helwani, Diaz shot down the prospect of fighting Conor McGregor. Diaz pointed out that McGregor received the rematch after getting finished at UFC 196 but the UFC did not extend the same courtesy to Diaz when McGregor won the rematch. He perceived the potential trilogy fight as the UFC's attempt to build Conor McGregor's brand that had taken a major hit due to the Poirier loss.
"We should be learning from what happened in the past. They're trying to bring him (Conor McGregor) back from the dead. I don't think they'll pay me enough money to do s**t like that anymore... this guy gets rematches, that's crazy for me," Nate Diaz said.