CONOR McGREGOR has been told by his former opponent that Khabib Nurmagomedov 'is at another level' to him.
McGregor is desperate for a rematch with Nurmagomedov and a chance to avenge his bitter 2018 submission loss.
But his pursuit has taken a hit, after Nurmagomdov announced a shock retirement in October.
That is despite Joe Duffy, the first man to beat McGregor, believing lightweight champion is still improving after each fight.
And he reckons the unbeaten grappler has and always will have the answer to his great rival.
Duffy, 32, told SunSport: "I just don't think that fights works in Conor's favour, I just really feel Khabib is at another level."
Nurmagomedov went on to beat Dustin Poirier – who fights McGregor at UFC 257 – a year after defeating the Irishman.
And in his last win, against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, Khabib went into the fight three months removed from the loss of his father Abdulmanap.
Duffy was blown away by Nurmagomedov's ability to battle the adversity and come out on top in what could be the Russian's final fight.
He said: "What people don't give Khabib enough credit for is how much he improves between fights also.
"After the Conor fight he beats Dustin next, and I thought Dustin might give him a hard time and some trouble.
"But Khabib, he looked like he went up another gear, and then Justin Gaethje, with everything going on losing his father, to perform like that was very impressive."
The death of his influential dad and mentor was the deciding factor in Nurmagomedov's decision to stop fighting.
But, beforehand the 32-year-old revealed it was always their plan to retire 30-0.
With Khabib one win away from doing so, UFC president Dana White met with the Dagestani star to discuss a comeback.
White later revealed Nurmagomedov will consider a return but only if a contender convinces him to do so.
Khabib has long talked up a dream fight with UFC legend and two-weight champion Georges St-Pirre.
GSP, though, appears content in retirement, which he announced in 2019 after failing to land a fight with Nurmagomedov.
St-Pirre, 39, has not fought since winning the middleweight belt in 2017 which ended his four year hiatus from the cage.
And despite his age and inactivity, Duffy, who shared the Tristar Gym in Canada with GSP, has backed his former training partner to upset Khabib.
Duffy said: "I do think Georges wins that fight, because of the distance and the striking.
"Georges has a very long reach, he makes people play his game. Khabib generally dictates striking because he can control the wrestling.
"They are so scared of the wrestling they struggle to get anything off on the feet.
"Whereas Georges has good enough wrestling to beat Khabib there and even put Khabib on his back, because Khabib likes close quarter wrestling rather than setting up shoots.
"But once he gets hold of you, he's probably not letting go until you're on you're back. Whereas Georges picks his shots and sets up the takedown.
"As a fan I'm just as interested but I do think Georges has the upper hand in that fight bar the age difference.
"In a way you don't want to see them fight because you don't want either to lose.
"They are both incredible fighters and you don't want their legacy to show that."
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