Retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov believes that old rival Conor McGregor will never return to the top of his game after the Irishman was defeated in emphatic fashion by Dustin Poirier last month.
McGregor took to the Octagon for the first time in a year at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi, and would have been hoping to dispose of his less-fancied with a dominant performance to set up a big-money rematch with Nurmagomedov.
However, 'The Diamond' produced a stunning performance to break down the Irishman with a number of brutal leg kicks, before calling an end to proceedings in the second round with a rapid flurry of unanswered punches.
The result came as a major disruption to McGregor's future plans as he aims to force his way back into lightweight title contention, with his sights firmly set on a trilogy with Poirier to settle the scores.
Both fighters have beaten each other once, paving the way for a third and final meeting which could put McGregor's UFC future in doubt if he fails to seal redemption.
Nurmagomedov, who beat the Dublin-born fighter in a dominant display back in 2017, has suggested that his attempts to get back to his best are futile as athletes cannot be in the prime of their career more than once.
When asked by Magomed Ismailov if 'The Notorious' can rediscover his form of old after his latest setback, the Dagestani champion replied: "Never. There is no way that a man can be at the peak for two times."
"I'm not [just] talking about him. What I mean is, a man can't have two primes. A team could do it. For example, Real Madrid did this a few times in a row.
"Teams may have this. But we're talking about us. And one man, on his own, cannot have this."
If McGregor can beat Poirier when the pair inevitably face off once more, it could reignite his hopes of a career-defining triumph over Nurmagomedov at the second time of asking.
UFC president Dana White has been vocal in his calls for the highly-anticipated bout to be made, but is still yet to convince the Russian to come out of retirement in order to fight one final time.
The American claimed earlier this week that he remains confident the fight will eventually happen, citing Nurmagomedov's strong dislike of McGregor as a factor that could tempt him back into the Octagon.
"He hates Conor McGregor so bad," said White. 'The hate that these two have is as real as anything you have ever seen.
"And I believe that if Conor came out of this thing, and Conor was going to be the guy to win the title?
"Now I truly believe that he would fight Conor. I believe that. Maybe I'm wrong but we'll see how it all plays out."
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