Conor McGregor’s path to UFC title shot becomes clear after Khabib retirement

Conor McGregor now knows what he has to do to become UFC champion again.

The Irishman is currently licking his wounds following his defeat by Dustin Poirier in their rematch two months ago.

But as he continues negotiations over a trilogy fight with his lightweight rival, the title picture has finally been cleared up.

Five months after first announcing his retirement, Khabib Nurmagomedov has confirmed he will not return to the cage.

In doing so he has ended UFC president Dana White's hopes of luring one of his biggest stars back into the sport.

White had long insisted he would not give up trying to convince Nurmagomedov to return for his 30th professional fight.

But after dinner in Las Vegas this week, he has finally relented and accepted his now former champion's decision.

The UFC has moved quickly to crown a new champion with Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler to clash for the vacant belt on May 15 at UFC 262.

The booking comes despite White insisting he was in no rush to crown a new champion at 155lb and that he would instead hold an unofficial tournament for the top nine fighters in the rankings.

That had started to take shape when Tony Ferguson was booked to fight Beneil Dariush before reports emerged that Chandler would take on Justin Gaethje.

Instead the former Bellator champion will fight for the UFC title in his second fight with the promotion following his debut win over Dan Hooker in January.

Poirier may count himself unfortunate not to be fighting for the belt but he appears to have chosen the more lucrative option of a third fight with McGregor.

Having avenged his 2014 loss earlier this year, he will now bid to confirm his superiority over the Irishman with negotiations continuing over holding the third installment at UFC 264 on July 10.

Should McGregor avenge his defeat by Poirier, he would surely then be in pole position to challenge for the lightweight title he won from Eddie Alvarez in 2016.

But first he must overcome Poirier who dominated the Irishman for two rounds in Abu Dhabi.

The American who, like McGregor, was choked out by Nurmagomedov in his title challenge, utilised effective kicking to nullify his opponent before eventually dropping and stopping him.

McGregor has since returned to training and his coach John Kavanagh is confident he can rectify his mistakes.

"We want to get that one back, we've got to figure out these calf kicks, how to use them and defend them," he told BT Sport. "We're pretty confident we have that sorted out now.

"Fair play to Dustin and Mike (Brown) and the guys. Even when he was getting clocked, he got hit a couple of times hard but he still didn’t start getting into a trading war or try and gas himself out trying for takedowns.

"He had this plan, that he had the check hook and they had had the calf kick and they were just going to keep doing it and hope it would work, and it did.

"We have to fix that technical detail, which is not like having to fix everything, it's fixing a small enough area. Get that back into the whole game, not going in with a sort of with a boxing mentality, going in with an MMA mentality.

"Conor was always famous for his movement, his ability to change stances, his bounce as he would say. We got to bring that back. It's there, it's under the hood, it’s not skills that have to be learned or relearned, they just have to be re-ignited.

"We have already started that process. So, wouldn't it be great to do it again in the summer, maybe in Vegas in front of 20,000 screaming people if we can get the world back open again."

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