Islam Makhachev would rather face Conor McGregor in a "team vs. team" scenario than inside octagon

Conor McGregor (left) and Islam Makhachev (right) have long been at odds [Images courtesy: @thenotoriousmma and @islam_makhachev on Instagram]
Conor McGregor (left) and Islam Makhachev (right) have long been at odds [Images courtesy: @thenotoriousmma and @islam_makhachev on Instagram]

Islam Makhachev has suggested that he'd be willing to fight Conor McGregor in a "team vs. team" scenario, potentially a street fight, rather than a professional MMA bout. Makhachev is a childhood friend and training partner of McGregor's archnemesis, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov defended his UFC lightweight title by besting archrival McGregor via fourth-round submission at UFC 229 (Oct. 2018). 'The Eagle' then attacked McGregor's cornermen, which caused a mass brawl.

While the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA in Oct. 2020, former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor has been on an injury hiatus since July 2021. McGregor is booked to make his long-awaited return in a welterweight bout against Michael Chandler at UFC 303 (June 29, 2024).

Meanwhile, reigning UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev is scheduled to defend his title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 (June 1, 2024).

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During Islam Makhachev's recent appearance on ESPN MMA, interviewer Brett Okamoto alluded to the Nurmagomedov-McGregor rivalry and asked whether Makhachev wants a similarly intense feud with McGregor. The champion responded by suggesting that they were "good memories" and that beating 'The Notorious' and his old team would be fun.

Makhachev believes that longtime foe McGregor is below his level right now. However, he acknowledged that fighting the combat sports megastar would likely fetch him good money.

Okamoto then asked if he felt McGregor would call him out after potentially beating Chandler. Makhachev replied by implying that 'The Notorious' may not want to cut down to lightweight again. Nevertheless, he indicated he'd have no qualms fighting McGregor if challenged.

When asked what were his good memories from the Nurmagomedov-McGregor rivalry, Makhachev said:

"With Khabib? ... Good memories. But I want good memories ... I want when we meet his team, and we all team, in the street somewhere, and we have good fights. You know? Because we all have many, many big experience in the street. We just want to meet them and finish all talks."

Upon being asked whether he'd like to fight Conor McGregor in the octagon or have his team take on McGregor's team in the streets, Makhachev answered by opting for the 'team vs. team' setting. Besides, he seemed to allude to possibly partaking in a TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) season against McGregor.

Makhachev said:

"Team vs. team. It's going to be more interesting. Because already Khabib beat him in the cage, beat his corner. But team vs. team, maybe we can make 'Ultimate Fighter'"

Watch Islam Makhachev discuss the topic below (7:58-10:35):

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When Islam Makhachev supported Conor McGregor's rival team member on UFC's TUF 31

Speaking of a 'team vs. team' format, Conor McGregor notably served as a coach on the UFC's TUF reality show twice, most recently starring opposite rival coach Michael Chandler on TUF 31 in 2023. Per the TUF format, the teams don't necessarily comprise the coaches' actual teammates but rather consist of contestants chosen by the UFC.

During TUF 31, Islam Makhachev appeared in an episode to support veteran bantamweight Timur Valiev. Dagestan's Valiev was a part of Team Chandler on TUF. Ergo, Makhachev not only backed his fellow Dagestani combatant but also implicitly opposed Team McGregor.

It was perceived as another jibe at McGregor and an extension of the seemingly never-ending Nurmagomedov-McGregor rivalry.

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