Nelson (18-5-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC), who returns to competition Saturday at UFC 286 when he meets Bryan Barberena (18-9 MMA, 9-7 UFC) in a welterweight bout on the main card of the event at The O2 in London, said he hasn’t spent much time in the gym with McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) in recent years.
The pair still communicates over Instagram and messages while McGregor does “Conor things,” Nelson said, but he’s confident McGregor will win his highly anticipated comeback fight with Chandler later this year – as long as he trains effectively.
“It’s an interesting one,” Nelson told MMA Junkie and other reporters at UFC 286 media day Wednesday. “If Conor trains properly and is in shape, he’ll kick the sh*t out of him.”
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While McGregor readies for his return to action, Nelson is focused on his own career. He originally was scheduled to fight Daniel Rodriguez at UFC 286, but the opponent changed to Barberena on short notice. Nelson said he’s happy with the switch, especially because of Barberena’s fighting style.
“I didn’t really mind too much,” Nelson said. “It was nice of them to bring in another southpaw. I like that. I’m well used to opponents being changed, and I think more often than not it’s happened. So I don’t really get too engaged with my first opponent. ‘Bam Bam’ is a stud. He’s a veteran and I’m really happy he stepped up.”
Nelson, who enters the fight tied for the most submission victories in UFC welterweight history with six, thinks he can take advantage of the matchup and add another stoppage result to his octagon resume.
“He’s exciting,” Nelson said. “I like his fights. He goes in there and he’s not going to try to win on points. He’s going to try to finish the fight. It’s exciting to watch him fight, and I’m excited to share the octagon with him.
“I don’t think this one is going to the judges. I’m going to try to finish him as early as possible, but if not, second or third round. We’ll see.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 286.