Conor McGregor could make stunning UFC return against Justin Gaethje if Dustin Poirier fails to agree terms

CONOR MCGREGOR could make his UFC return on January 23 against Justin Gaethje, if Dustin Poirier fails to agree terms.

The Irishman is expected to face 'The Diamond' at UFC 257, as he gears up for his latest return to the octagon following nearly a year on the sidelines.

McGregor, 32, is believed to have already agreed terms with the UFC.

But according to ESPN's Ariel Helwani, the promotion are once again struggling to reach an agreement with No2 ranked lightweight contender Poirier.

The American had been expected to fight Tony Ferguson in the co-main event at UFC 254.

But, despite 'El Cucuy' having agreed a deal, the bout fell through with Poirier unhappy with what was being offered.

If talks remain at an impasse, however, the UFC would be willing to replace Poirier, 31, with Gaethje.

Although this plan would be reliant on McGregor being willing to fight somebody else.

There is bad blood between 'The Notorious' and 'The Highlight', with the latter having upped the ante following the former's decision to fight Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone back in January.

Gaethje told BT Sport last month, prior to his defeat at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov: "I've tweeted him and called him a s*** father, human and husband. That was in October and he fought 'Cowboy' in January. He had every opportunity to fight me and he passed every time.

"The times he said he was going to fight I never had a call from UFC or anybody to confirm whether that happened, so I dunno what was going on behind the scenes.

"But they never called me and he had many opportunities to fight me and he didn't. He chose 'Cowboy' and I'd just knocked 'Cowboy' out, that's a b**** move.

"You guys jump on board and act like it's the fight to make and it's gonna be awesome – that was a b**** move. And it will be a b**** move for the rest of his life."

Should McGregor put his foot down and insist on Poirier, however, he is likely to get his wish.

Much has been made of the potential for this fight to be for the belt, following Nurmagomedov's retirement.

But, unlike when Henry Cejudo retired earlier this year, UFC president Dana White has refrained from immediately removing the Dagestani from the rankings – with a potential U-turn in mind.

I have a feeling that he might go for 30-0

White, 51, told the Zach Gelb show: "I’ll tell you this and I haven’t told anybody this yet, but Khabib and I have been talking.

"He was completely emotional that night when he got through that fight.

"I have a feeling that he might go for 30-0.

"I think that he's not going to retire. His dad wanted him to get to 30-0, and I think he wants to honour his dad's wish."

Three fights have already been pencilled in for UFC 257, including Michelle 'Karate Hottie' Waterson vs Amanda Ribas.

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