There won’t be a lot of people cageside on Sunday for UFC 257 because of social distancing and virus restrictions. But when Conor “The Notorious” McGregor takes on Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier for the second time, there will be one person everyone will be watching. By all accounts, rumours and water-cooler talk, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) is still in Abu Dhabi and will watch the card at the Etihad Arena on the UFC’s Fight Island, where “The Eagle” met with UFC president Dana White last week. Nothing is more important than Nurmagomedov’s next move, if he makes one and comes out of retirement after he dismantled Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October. Nurmagomedov broke down in tears after his victory, an emotional win he dedicated to his late father, who died of complications from Covid-19 in July. While the Russian grappling sensation has repeatedly said he is done fighting, there is one special Irish phenom who might be able to entice him out of retirement. McGregor, if he beats Poirier on Yas Island, will get a perfect opportunity to call Nurmagomedov out in person and reignite one of the most electrifying rivalries the sport has ever seen. The two met at UFC 229 in October of 2019, the culmination of years of bad blood and a war of words that saw, at one point, McGregor throw a metal barricade at Nurmagomedov’s bus in New York, smashing multiple windows. Then Nurmagomedov leapt out of the Octagon after submitting McGregor to go after his team. These two don’t like each other, have competing ideologies, and are both massive pay-per-view grabs. White wants nothing more than to set up what would probably be a final legacy bout between the two. UFC: Umar Nurmagomedov ‘did it better than Khabib’ with debut win Make no mistake of the genius of White, who probably moved heaven and earth to get Nurmagomedov to watch this fight in person, if that is the case. Arman Tsarukyan, a friend and regular training partner, is fighting on the preliminary card as well, while the 32-year-old cornered his cousin, Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0), for his UFC debut on Wednesday night. White knows if there is one guy that gets under Nurmagomedov’s skin like no one else, it is the Dublin superstar. Watching the UFC’s Embedded vlog series leading up to the fight, one thing is abundantly clear – McGregor is jacked, in amazing shape and has a calm but determined aura to him, even in those colourful silk pants he’s been sporting. McGregor is a man on fire, fresh off a training camp in Portugal where he escaped the press and madness, focusing on fine-tuning his fight game down to the smallest detail. This is bad news for Poirier, as even a half-distracted McGregor would pose all types of difficulty for the American in the ring. McGregor on point, zoned in, is scary as scary gets. He is out to prove he can still fight at a championship calibre level. The fight comes at an interesting time in the lightweight division. If Nurmagomedov has indeed vacated the belt, a number of fighters are creating a bottleneck to try to grab it. Gaethje (22-3) has surely earned at least a sporting chance after disposing of Tony Ferguson (25-5), who many thought was the No 1 contender, last May to win the interim title. The co-main event features Dan Hooker (20-9) and Michael Chandler (21-5), fighters who could push themselves into the conversation if they deliver a statement win. There’s also Charles Oliveira (30-8, one no contest) who has to be considered after dismantling Ferguson, too, making for the most crowded division in the MMA world right now. And you might as well throw in featherweight Max Holloway (22-6), who delivered an impressively renewed performance against Calvin Kattar (22-5) last week and could easily jump up a weight class. But this is still Nurmagomedov’s belt until White says it isn’t, and he won’t do anything with it until he sees what the Russian does and says after UFC 257. Poirier winning probably isn’t going to move the needle for him, as he’s already beat him in decisive fashion via third-round choke at UFC 242 in September 2019. Yes, Khabib has beaten McGregor too, but times have changed and “Notorious” is a new man. Watch the crowd at UFC 257 like a hawk, because there will be one eagle paying close attention to his biggest nemesis. Of course, if Nurmagomedov stays in his hotel room, or heads home before the bout kicks off, this won’t matter one bit to a showman like McGregor. He will still call him out and rile up his most famous adversary, and we will all lap it up.