Conor McGregor’s tense face-off with ex-UFC champ as pair have awkward staredown

There are some fights that are simply not meant to be – but it's nice to dream.

And some mixed martial arts enthusiasts are doing just that after Conor McGregor met Petr Yan in a clash of dethroned UFC kings on Saturday. The pair were both in attendance for a boxing event in Dubai and faced off in scenes that left fans unsure of how to feel.

Like the constant competitor he is, former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion McGregor, 35, treated the occasion with seriousness at first and bore down on Yan with an intense look on his face. And it only served to highlight the size differential between the pair, who would struggle to agree on a catchweight if they ever were to compete against one another.

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But it's fair to say Yan – who held the UFC's bantamweight belt between July 2020 and March 2021 – wasn't facing the stare-down with the same sense of reverence. In fact, the 30-year-old could barely keep a smirk off his face throughout the encounter.

Tensions soon subsided as 'The Notorious' uttered some light taunts before the pair broke apart and hugged it out. The encounter took place at an IBA boxing event, where the organisation's president stood between the two holding a belt, hoping (almost certainly in vain) that a match between the two will materialise in future.

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McGregor and Yan have history when it comes to teasing a fight, with the former once proclaiming he'd rip the Russian apart and offering to spar him in Dublin. That was in response to a fight fan's online ranking of the UFC's best boxers, in which Yan (first) and Max Holloway (second) came out ahead of the Irishman.

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Yan has been absent from the cage since suffering a third straight decision defeat in March when he lost to Merab Dvalishvili. He was due to return to the Octagon against Song Yadong on Saturday but had to withdraw from the bout due to injury.

As for McGregor, the UFC's first dual-weight champion is almost two-and-a-half years removed from his most recent fight. There are major question marks as to whether The Notorious will ever compete again, but any hopes of a comeback taking place against Yan seem fleeting at best.

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