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Conor McGregor backed to face Khabib Nurmagomedov on UFC return

Tony Ferguson was initially the bookies’ favourite, but the market has since moved in favour of the Russian star

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Per Haljestam

Irish UFC superstar Conor McGregor’s potential return to action has been the subject of much conjecture since he stepped into the boxing ring to challenge Floyd Mayweather last summer.

And leading UK odds-comparison site Oddschecker has announced who the British bookies believe ‘The Notorious’ will face next.

Initially, UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson was the betting favourite, but the appearance of a news story from Russia suggesting Ferguson will face undefeated Russian battering ram Khabib Nurmagomedov this spring has seen the market move already.

‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson defeated fellow contender Kevin Lee at UFC 216 last October to capture the UFC interim lightweight title and cement his position as the number-one contender to face undisputed champ McGregor next.

Oddschecker confirmed that Ferguson was initially set as the 11/8 favourite to face McGregor, but he’s since drifted to 13/8, with Nurmagomedov now installed as the new betting favourite, at 6/4.

Many believe Nurmagomedov offers the toughest test of McGregor’s championship credentials. The 25-0 phenom from Dagestan looked all set to take on Ferguson for the interim belt at UFC 209 last March, only to then fall ill the night before the weigh-ins, forcing the bout to be scrapped.

Nurmagomedov came back and looked great on the scale before going on to look terrifyingly good as he battered Brazilian striker Edson Barboza over three one-sided rounds at UFC 219.

UFC president Dana White has already suggested that if McGregor isn’t available to fight again until the autumn he may be stripped of his lightweight title.

And that, coupled with the rumours suggesting Ferguson and Nurmagomedov could meet in a possible title bout in April, has led to the possible scenario of McGregor being stripped, then coming back to face the winner of the Ferguson-Nurmagomedov fight in a bid to reclaim his title.

Other names on the list include Nate Diaz, who has been linked with a trilogy bout with McGregor after the pair swapped wins in 2016. He’s an 11/2 shot, while reigning UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway is 13/2.

Canadian star Georges St-Pierre is also a contender, but he’s considered a long shot, priced at 20/1.

McGregor has also been linked with a return to boxing, and three former world champions have been priced up as the potential next opponent for McGregor.

A rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr is a 33/1 shot, and you can get a McGregor return against Filipino folk hero Manny Pacquiao for the same odds.

Also priced up is Paulie Malignaggi, who infamously sparred with – and was knocked down by – McGregor ahead of the Dubliner’s bout with Mayweather last year. He’s the rank outsider at 40/1.

For more info, check out the Conor McGregor specials market listings on Oddschecker.com

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including UFC world title fights, Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Grand National and the FA Cup Final.

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