Conor McGregor returns to the octagon for the first time in over two years today – or early Sunday morning if you’re watching in Britain – in a UFC lightweight title fight against Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The Irishman has not fought competitively since losing to Floyd Mayweather in a multi-million dollar boxing match in August 2016.
Tonight’s mixed martial arts bout, one of the most eagerly anticipated in recent years, is being shown live on BT Sport – before online streaming service Eleven Sports take over UFC rights from January 2019 onwards.
Broadcast restrictions mean that fans in the UK who have subscribed to UFC Fight Pass will not be able to watch the bout live, only BT Sport subscribers will be able to see the live action.
McGregor attempted to take the attack to Nurmagomedov a day before their eagerly-anticipated UFC lightweight title showdown.
McGregor aims kick at Khabib at final face-off before UFC 229
The pair both made the 155lb limit on Friday morning but tensions threatened to boil over at the ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 229 at the final staredown later in the day at the T-Mobile Arena.
As they got into their fighting poses, McGregor brought his arms down on Nurmagomedov before aiming a kick at his bitter rival after being beckoned forward by the Russian.
Nurmagomedov seemed unflustered by the antics or another barracking from a crowd largely supporting McGregor, whose entourage on to the stage at the venue included the rapper Drake draped in an Irish flag.
McGregor made one last attempt to charge at Nurmagomedov but the fighters were held back from each other by a throng of security personnel.
McGregor then turned his attention to the thousands in attendance, the arena a sea of the green, white and orange colours of Ireland, and seemed to revel in their support as he prepares for his first UFC bout in nearly two years.
“It’s good to be back,” he said. “UFC fans it’s good to be back. The king is home.”
Nurmagomedov was heavily booed at the open workouts and the news conference earlier this week, so it came as little surprise when he was once again subjected to jeers from the crowd.
Addressing the hostile reception, Nurmagomedov, who was wearing his signature papakha hat, said: “Tomorrow night I’m going to smash your boy.
“I want to say thank you to all Irish fans around the world. Because of you guys, this fight is happening.”
The unbeaten Nurmagomedov is making the first defence of the lightweight title he won in April by outpointing late replacement Al Iaquinta, taking his professional record to 26-0 as a result.
He has struggled to make weight in the past, most memorably being withdrawn from a contest against Tony Ferguson last year by doctors, but there seemed to be no problems this time around.
All fighters on the card had a two-hour window from 9am local time to weigh in and Nurmagomedov turned up immediately to tip the scales at 155lbs.
McGregor arrived a little over an hour later and came in at half a pound lighter.
This weekend’s event has been billed as the biggest in the UFC’s history and is forecast to set a new benchmark in pay-per-view buys for the organisation.
McGregor’s comeback is unquestionably a factor in that, the 30-year-old set to compete in mixed martial arts for the first time since November 2016, when he defeated Eddie Alvarez to become the only fighter to simultaneously hold two UFC titles.
However, his absence meant he was stripped of both the featherweight and lightweight crowns, with Nurmagomedov succeeding McGregor as top dog in the latter division.
The animosity between the pair ramped up significantly in April when McGregor threw a dolly at the window of a bus containing several rival fighters, including Nurmagomedov.
The war of words has intensified ever since, contributing to plenty of ill-feeling between both camps and adding to the anticipation around the fight.