Former two-division champion Conor McGregor (21-3) continues to see a massive buzz built around what he hopes will be an epic return to the Octagon this Saturday in Las Vegas for his lightweight title matchup with unbeaten champ Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) at UFC 229.
However, while Nurmagomedov opened as a slightly bigger favorite at -170 (bet $170 to win $100) that number has not dipped as much as one would think as fight time approaches, considering how much the public loves McGregor, especially in the role of underdog.
Nurmagomedov was initially bet up to a -185 favorite before falling to a low of -155 a couple of weeks ago and eventually settling to the current number of -160 on the listed Khabib vs. McGregor odds at most sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
The last 24 hours or so will be telling as far as who the public will end up supporting, with many originally predicting this championship bout to end up closer to a pick'em. McGregor, who is listed as a +130 underdog (bet $100 to win $130) on the UFC 229 odds, has certainly done his part to help promote the bout while Nurmagomedov is more soft-spoken and seems to prefer letting his actions speak louder than words against opponents inside the cage.
The fascinating clash of styles between one of the promotion's best stand-up fighters in McGregor and arguably the top grappler in Nurmagomedov is reportedly on track to reach nearly three million Pay-Per-View buys, according to UFC president Dana White.
The fact that McGregor has not participated in an MMA bout in nearly two years also adds to the intrigue, as he took some time off for the birth of his first child and to prepare for his heavily hyped boxing match against welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather.
But during that span, Nurmagomedov has fought just twice, earning a pair of unanimous-decision wins over Edson Barboza and Al Iaquinta en route to taking home the interim lightweight title belt. His performance versus Barboza was far more impressive than against Iaquinta, who was a late replacement for featherweight champ Max Holloway after he took Tony Ferguson's place due to injuries to both fighters.
Ferguson (23-3), the former interim lightweight champ, has been scheduled to face Nurmagomedov four times already, and he is fighting another former champ - Anthony Pettis (21-7) - in the UFC 229 co-main event. Pettis is a big underdog at +265, with Ferguson (-350) looking to meet the winner of Nurmagomedov-McGregor next.