Conor McGregor has accused Khabib Nurmagomedov of “pulling the wool over people’s eyes” and criticised his rival for not being a “true fighter”.
The Irishman is still seeking a rematch with the unbeaten lightweight, who retired in December with a UFC record of 29-0 to keep a promise to his family.
Nurmagomedov beat McGregor in the UFC’s biggest-ever pay-per-view clash in 2018, which preceded an unsavoury post-fight brawl, but has so far refused to consider facing him again inside the Octagon.
UFC president Dana White held talks with Nurmagomedov on Friday about the prospect of him coming out of retirement for a lucrative rematch, but McGregor feels the Russian is running scared.
“I think he’s afraid to fight me. That’s for damn sure and I don’t blame him. I fought the best of him on that night, he fought the worst of me on that night,” McGregor told ESPN .
“He knows it, I know it, his team knows it. I have the answer to destroy that man, so he can pull the wool over people’s eyes for only so long.
“It is what it is. I know there are surrounding things regarding the family and if he’s retired I wish him well. But I am who I am and I’m at the top so time will show.”
Nurmagomedov called time on his UFC career after his second-round win over Justin Gaethje, in a year where his father and trainer, Abdulmanap, passed away in July.
After his victory, the 32-year-old said: “Today, I want to say, this was my last fight. No way am I going to come here without my father.
“[My mother] doesn’t want me to fight without my father. I promised her that this will be my last fight. And if I give my word, I need to follow it.”
But while McGregor respects the wishes of Nurmagomedov’s family, he has questioned the motivation of the former champion.
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Asked if he feels Nurmagomedov retired to avoid him, McGregor replied: “Yes, I would say so. I think his hand was shown, he’s not a true fighter in my opinion.
“How could you walk away? There’s so many great fights to be had. Think of the [Nate] Diaz’s, the [Tony] Ferguson’s, there’s so many wild fights, the [Charles] Oliveira’s, the rematch against me. I just think it’s preposterous to walk away.”
Referencing the bus attack amid the bad blood between them previously, McGregor added: “I think not only did he s *** on the bus I think he p *** on the chips also, I think he showed his hand.
“But then also there is family issues so it is what it is, all the best.”