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Conor McGregor celebrates 30th birthday with Putin at World Cup

Updated July 16, 2018 - 7:30 pm

Rumors are swirling of a potential UFC lightweight title fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former champ Conor McGregor being discussed for the end of the year.

The rival superstars were in the same venue Sunday, though their paths apparently never crossed.

Nurmagomedov posted a photo of himself inside the stadium of the World Cup final in Moscow.

McGregor viewed the action from a more prominent perch as the personal guest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This man is one of the greatest leaders of our time and I was honored to attend such a landmark event alongside him,” McGregor wrote on social media. “Today was an honor for me, Mr. Putin. Thank you and congratulations on an amazing World Cup.”

Nurmagomedov, from the Russian republic of Dagestan, was the alleged target of McGregor’s April 5 bus attack in Brooklyn, for which criminal charges are still pending.

Their separate appearances at the world’s biggest sporting event occurred just after McGregor turned 30 on Saturday. Several family members, including longtime girlfriend Dee Devlin, appeared to indicate the couple is expecting their second child on social media messages wishing him well.

McGregor has not confirmed they are expecting a sibling for Conor McGregor Jr., who was born in May 2017.

McGregor has not competed in MMA since November 2016. His only fight since that date was a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in August 2017. He is due in a New York courtroom July 26, when it is possible he could enter a plea agreement.

UFC president Dana White has said he will not announce a fight until the legal situation has been resolved.

Idle hands for Whittaker

Filming is underway for Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” with middleweight contender Kelvin Gastelum coaching opposite champion Robert Whittaker.

The timing appears good for Whittaker, who wouldn’t be able to defend the belt any time soon even if he weren’t tied up with the show.

Whittaker told ESPN this week he suffered ligament damage in his left hand in a win over Yoel Romero in June. He also broke his right hand during the fight.

While the show will finish airing in December, it remains unclear when he will defend the belt against Gastelum.

“I’m not too sure just yet, but I have let Dana know that I definitely won’t be ready before next year,” Whittaker said on Ariel Helwani’s “MMA Show.” “I have to get to 100 percent with (both) my hands to start rehab. The healing process has to begin before I can ever start a rehab program and then I need to strengthen my hands back up to 100 percent. Then when I’m back to 100 percent, I would like to get a little bit of training done. Realistically I am looking at February next year.”

“TUF” begins airing what could be its final season in August on Fox Sports 1.

Hardy returns to DWTNCS

Former NFL star Greg Hardy landed a UFC developmental deal with his first-round knockout of Austen Lane in his pro mixed martial arts debut on the season premiere of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last month.

His next assignment will be another appearance on the show, which streams live on Fight Pass.

Hardy is scheduled to face Tebaris Gordon on the Aug. 7 episode of the show, which is set in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old has stated he would prefer to get another chance in the NFL, but is pursuing a UFC career because no offers have been forthcoming after a well-documented domestic violence case and a disappointing season with the Cowboys in 2015.

Tonight’s episode of DWTNCS features a women’s strawweight main event between Maycee Barber and Jamie Colleen.

Fights for brunch

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will headline the organization’s return to Germany on Sunday when he fights Anthony Smith.

UFC Fight Night 134 will air live from Hamburg on Fox Sports 1 at 11 a.m., with the preliminary card airing on the same network at 9.

Also on the card, Glover Teixeira will meet Corey Anderson in another pivotal light heavyweight bout.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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