Any hope Conor McGregor had of luring Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement and into a rematch appear to be in tatters with the Russian of the belief he is “so many levels above” any lightweight in UFC.
The unbeaten Khabib watched on as McGregor was floored by Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi in a stunning reversal of their first fight six years ago.
The Irishman had beaten Poirier inside two minutes in September 2014 and was overwhelming favourite to see off his American rival again in a bid to get fierce adversary Nurmagomedov to reverse his retirement decision.
But Poirier avenged that defeat and gained a measure of revenge, surviving one or two nervy moments in the first round and then gaining the upper hand in the second round with some savage kicks to McGregor's lead leg.
Poirier forced McGregor back with a flurry of punches, flooring him with a short right hook before a couple of blows to the defenceless Irishman led to the end of the fight after two minutes and 32 seconds of the second round.
Khabib, who submitted McGregor back in 2018 sparking hostilities to spill over outside the Octagon, wasted no time in mocking his rival on social media while also having a conversation with UFC president Dana White.
White revealed afterwards he had told him: "Dana, be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys.”
That would appear to put on hold any hopes that he is set to come out of retirement and attempt to improve on his perfect 29-0 record in the professional ranks.
This was McGregor's first fight since stopping Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds 12 months ago. Before that he had not stepped inside the octagon since October 2018.
The Dubliner admitted his long stretches on the sidelines had come back to haunt him.
"If you put in the time in here, you're going to get cosy in here and I just have to dust it off and come back and that's what I will do. I need activity, you don't get away with being inactive in this business," McGregor said.
"I'll take my licks. I'm gutted and I put so much work in. Well done Dustin: 1-1, good man. It's a tough one to swallow, I put in a lot of work, I'm proud of my work. We'll get to go again and that's it."
Additional reporting by PA