There’s been some doubt as to whether Conor McGregor, who is now the richest fighter in MMA history and one of the highest paid athletes in the world, still has the motivational drive to compete at the highest level in the UFC.
McGregor, the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, will return to the Octagon for the first time in almost two years at UFC 229, where he is scheduled to challenge newly-crowned lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov on Oct. 6.
Although question marks loom over the Irishman’s motivation in a post-Mayweather world, longtime SBG Ireland teammate James Gallagher assured Peter Carroll of MMA Fighting that ‘The Notorious’ has ‘that fire back inside of him’ and is hungrier than ever to reclaim his title.
“[Conor] looks better than ever,” Gallagher said in a recent interview.
“He’s got that fire back inside of him. When you’re on the top of the world like he’s been for so long, you need to chill out for a little bit to get that hunger back. It’s hard to keep that hunger when you have everything that you’ve ever wanted.
“While he’s been away, Khabib has been creating some hype and getting himself in a position to fight Conor. There are a lot of people who see Khabib as a serious threat, so I think that’s given Conor a push to step up and say, ‘Nah, mate, I’m the champ around here — you’re not on my level.’ I think Conor’s going to show Khabib who’s boss and put him back in his box.”
McGregor’s strongest critics believe the former champ is only interested in the money, but ‘The Strabanimal’ says it’s ‘the thrill of competition’ that drives the 30-year-old.
“Conor could wipe his ass every morning with a €500 note and it would be just a drop in the ocean for him, so the real part of this he’s interested in is the challenge. You can buy all the cars and everything else, but you can’t buy a challenge like this. The thrill of competition is what is driving him,” Gallagher said.
“Conor has beaten everyone the UFC have put in front of him. He climbed to the top of a division and he won a belt, then he won another belt…he loves a challenge. People are saying that Khabib is the guy now and I know that Conor is thinking, ‘I’m going to show all of these people again’. He’s got a fire inside of him to show everyone who is the boss.”
McGregor will look to prove the critics wrong at UFC 229, which takes place on October 6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.