UFC news: Conor McGregor shockingly rejected chance to replace Khabib at UFC 249

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Conor McGregor took the dramatic decision last week to retire from the fight game for the third time.

Having witnessed 'Notorious' return to the cage having said he never would again in 2016 and 2019, MMA fans around the world understandably took his announcement with a pinch of salt.

But McGregor, who most recently fought in January, seemed dead set on the idea of hanging up his gloves when he conducted an interview with ESPN the day after his retirement.

"The game just does not excite me, and that's that," McGregor stated. "All this waiting around. There's nothing happening. I'm going through opponent options, and there's nothing really there at the minute.

"There's nothing that's exciting me. They should have just kept the ball rolling. I mean, why are they pushing [Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje] back to September?

McGregor retires in frustration

"You know what's going to happen in September, something else is going to happen in September, and that's not going to happen. Whatever I say, they want to go against it to show some kind of power."

It's easy to understand McGregor's frustration at the lack of momentum in his recent career, but it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a lot of people's hands.

Plus, it had long been speculated that McGregor - as opposed to Justin Gaethje - was due to be the replacement fighter if Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson fell through at UFC 249.

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McGregor rejected UFC 249 fight

Of course, that was the case with Nurmagomedov being stranded in Russia and it was assumed that McGregor would face similar difficulties in trying to travel out of Ireland.

But in a revelation that casts McGregor's retirement in new light, Dana White has confirmed that 'Notorious' was given the opportunity to take Nurmagomedov's place at UFC 249.

In other words, he could have had a shot at Ferguson that, had he won, could have teed up the rematch with Nurmagomedov that he so badly desired after losing in 2018.

Per the Daily Mail, White told First Take: "Conor had the opportunity to slide into that spot [at UFC 249] if Khabib or Tony fell out. He came back and said 'I'm not a replacement fight. I'm not gonna do it.'

"He would be in that position right now if he took the fight. He didn't. Gaethje did. So Gaethje gets it."

As a fight fan, it makes for a tough read and you have to believe that McGregor had more reasoning than not wanting to be a 'replacement fight'. 

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What next for McGregor?

Sure, we were still blessed with an absolute slugfest in Gaethje vs Ferguson, but we're inclined to think McGregor would have been most people's first choice for the initial replacement.

Ferguson vs McGregor has been an appetising prospect for years but most of all, seeing whether the latter would be successful in a second hunt for Nurmagomedov would have been fascinating.

We're just going to have to keep our fingers crossed that McGregor hasn't genuinely retired having been offered an opportunity for two incredible fights we might never get to see.

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