Dana White has poured cold water on speculation that Conor McGregor will face Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, instead suggesting that it is Russian contender Khabib 'The Eagle' Nurmagomedov who is set to challenge for the lightweight title. The company heads to New York on 12 November for the very first time after it became the final state to pass legislation legalising and regulating mixed martial arts (MMA) back in March.
Excitement had been building that the sport's most brash and marketable star would top the bill at Madison Square Garden just three months after avenging his shock defeat to welterweight Nate Diaz with a majority decision victory at UFC 202 in Las Vegas, although the president insists that such speculation is wide of the mark.
Responding to a fan who had asked him to confirm or deny that Alvarez would mount a first defence of the belt he claimed with a stunning first-round stoppage of Rafael dos Anjos in July against McGregor, White tweeted: "not true it's @TeamKhabib."
Nurmagomedov then swiftly joined the conversation by ominously adding: "Me and Dana [are] just waiting for Eddie to sign. I promise I will finish you fast and with no pain."
Alvarez has made little secret of his desire to face McGregor over recent months, calling him out on social media and confidently declaring that "the illusion of greatness will soon be over". However, it looks like he will have to settle for a meeting with Nurmagomedov, the undefeated Russian who returned from a two-year injury absence in April to beat late-replacement opponent Darrell Horcher.
He was initially supposed to meet Tony Ferguson in a rescheduled bout to determine the number one lightweight contender, but the American was forced to withdraw due to a build-up of blood and fluid on the lungs.
McGregor, who received a medical suspension of up to six months following that aforementioned win over Diaz due to what was listed as a foot/ankle fracture, does not appear to have responded directly to Alvarez's challenge but did return to Twitter earlier on Wednesday (21 September) with a provocative two-word post that simply read: "Beg me".
'The Notorious' had also been linked with a lucrative, $100m boxing bout against retired five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather Jr throughout the summer, although the chances of such a money-spinning contest taking place now appear extremely remote. McGregor is next expected to return to the featherweight division and defend his 145-pound title for the first time.
"I tried to make the fight happen between me and Conor McGregor," Mayweather told Fight Hype earlier this week. "We weren't able to make it happen so we must move on."