Conor McGregor made his return to the Octagon this past Saturday night at UFC 246 where he took on Donald Cerrone in the evening’s main event. 40 seconds later, the fight was over, McGregor was victorious, he is back, and everyone wants to fight him. Some for the money, some for the competition, but let’s be honest it’s all about that payday that goes with facing McGregor.
The names being tossed around all make sense in their own way. I am going to post the who, and the why each name being mentioned has a case. Also, we will start with the top of McGregor’s wish list.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: The UFC Lightweight champion is the only guy on this list that isn’t really interested in a rematch with McGregor. After all, he dispatched McGregor in 2018 sending the former champ-champ into a downward spiral after he owned him in their title fight. He has nothing to prove because he already did, and most people believe a 2nd fight will yield the same result as the 1st fight. However, the champ’s father said his son will do the rematch for $100,000,000.00 after he defeats Tony Ferguson.
McGregor said he wants to be active which takes Khabib off the list for now. First of all, he is booked already vs. Tony Ferguson and then will disappear as he does every year to celebrate Ramadan, which means we won’t see the champ till the fall.
McGregor wants this win back more than anything else. The history is there, the hatred is there, but the timing isn’t. I also feel that Khabib will make Conor and the UFC beg, and pay him what he asks for. While Conor is in the driver’s seat in every fight negotiation he is involved in, this time he isn’t, Khabib controls this narrative, and that is going to drive McGregor nuts.
Kamaru Usman: The reigning UFC welterweight champion of the world has something Conor wants, and that is gold! Usman, who was called out by McGregor in a very simple tweet that read ” 145, 155,170.” after Usman defended his belt against Colby Covington.
Usman was dismissive of any thought on fighting McGregor, and made it very clear with the following response:
- “He must want to die. This is not ’45,-’55. You saw what Khabib [Nurmagomedov] did to him. Oh my God. It wouldn’t be fair if I fought Conor. Much respect to Conor for what he’s done for the sport and transcended it. But nah. This ain’t what you want. Just sit down, little man. Sit down. Learn to walk before you can run. Because I would hurt that guy.”
McGregor wants to be the 1st to hold gold in 3 divisions, and Usman is in his way. Usman is also injured so he is not a viable booking right now since he has a broken hand and no clear timetable for his return. Some sources are saying he won’t be out for long in which case it seems as if he has Jorge Masvidal on his plate next.
Jorge Masvidal: He seems to be the consensus choice from pretty much everybody in the world of mixed martial arts to be the one to fight Conor McGregor next, except for Conor McGregor! He is probably the biggest star other than McGregor in the UFC right now, and the BMF (Baddest Mother Fucker) and he has the belt to prove it would love that dance. He has shared his thoughts about facing McGregor and here they are:
- “If that contract gets in front of my face and the numbers add up to what I’m asking for, yeah. Then Conor is getting baptized on TV, man. Easy math. Simple. Conor, if you want to do it, let’s do it, bro. If not, I’ve got shit to do, man.”
McGregor has certainly expressed interest in that BMF title, but as stated above when speaking about Usman, it seems as if Street Jesus and the Nigerian Nightmare are on a crash course for the welterweight championship sooner, rather than later which would take both of them out of the red panty night sweepstakes, at least for now.
Also, if given the choice Masvidal would rather take out Usman and echoed that sentiment in the following statement.
- “If all things were equal: “I would take a lot more pleasure in dismantling Usman’s face than I would Conor’s. I would have sincere joy inside of me, like a kid at Christmas.”
Nate Diaz: I don’t think I even have to go into why this fight makes all the sense in the world, but just in case I will give a little bit of the back story for the uninitiated.
McGregor and Diaz have faced one another twice and both of them own a win against the other, there is unfinished business between them. They both know that the score has to be settled, and the trilogy must take place.
This 3rd possible matchup meets all the criteria for what the UFC, and it’s fans love. There is history, there’s bad blood, there is a real rivalry, and this matchup is a proven money maker. Their 1st 2 bouts are 2 of the highest-earning pay per views in company history and pardon the cliche, but the war to settle the score would do big numbers, and everybody wants to see part three.
The interesting thing about the possibility of this fight being next for McGregor is this is the only one that could be left to simmer for 6 months, a year, or even 2 and the interest would still be there because of the history between these 2 men. However, with the gentleman above all seemingly unavailable any time soon, and Diaz being available with nothing on his plate, this fight seems to have the most real possibility of coming to fruition first.
Jose Aldo: 14 seconds. What did we learn about this matchup in 14 seconds? When these 2 fought for the undisputed featherweight championship of the world we saw 14 seconds of action. McGregor knocked out Aldo while Aldo landed a punch at the same time, he was a little off the mark and McGregor’s was perfect for lack of a better term.
Based on his tenure as champion, Aldo should have been granted an immediate rematch but wasn’t. The reasoning behind it was the fact that this fight was booked twice and the UFC invested so much time and money into building it up, that they couldn’t see doing it all over again so soon after what was a year and of promoting this fight, they felt the fans wouldn’t get behind a third promotional campaign, especially after they did finally fight it only lasted 14 seconds.
This is the dark horse candidate. I know that Aldo would love the opportunity to avenge this loss and McGregor has mentioned a couple of times the possibility of going back down to featherweight and giving Aldo a rematch. I don’t know if he was serious, the weight cut for him would be brutal, to say the least, but the money would-be solid and it would allow McGregor to silence any doubters that felt their 1st fight was a fluke and that he landed a lucky shot. To those people I say this, he doesn’t land lucky shots, his fight IQ is off the charts, and he truly is that damn good!
Aldo has recently moved to the bantamweight division. He lost his first fight there via split-decision to Marlon Moraes, although the fans and some media felt differently than the judges about the result. Even in losing, Aldo won because it looks as if he will get his chance to become the 8th fighter in the history of the promotion to become a multi-divisional champion as a fight between him and Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo is in the works to headline UFC 250 in May in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I would like to see the rematch, it would be interesting to see if the fight becomes a fight.
Audie Attar, McGregor’s manager chimed in with his thoughts about who may be next on Ariel Helwani’s show on Monday:
- “Let’s see what motivates him. That’s the most important thing. … It’s really about what motivates him at this stage of his career. It could be Jorge. It could even be Aldo. Right now what we need to do still is enjoy the moment, process everything that happened and get back to work.”
Justin Gaethje: A true practitioner of the kill or be killed mentality. Gaethje is must-see tv! His willingness to stand and eat one to land one has endeared him to the UFC fan. An accomplished wrestler that would rather knock out his opponents instead of using his wrestling base and inhuman strength to get on top and then land violent ground and pound is someone you get excited about when he is announced in a bout. Gaethje seems to be the most overlooked fighter in the McGregor conversation, however, he is one not to be overlooked!
Rumors have surfaced that McGregor’s camp could be interested in this booking but at 170, and not 155 where Gaethje resides which I find a bit odd. McGregor seems to have fallen in love with the welterweight division because he doesn’t have to cut weight which allows him to fight at full strength whereas his opponents are cutting weight and therefore while they might claim differently, are not at 100% because of the cut, and the reality that the body will not be fully recovered from a weight cut in 24 hours. The morning weigh-in helps but still doesn’t afford the body enough time to get back everything. Gaethje would still more than likely have to cut to 170 as some say he walks around somewhere between 175 – 185lbs. So a less taxing weight cut for Gaethje if this bout were to be booked at 170 could be very interesting.
Gaethje does not like McGregor one bit. He doesn’t respect him as a man because of the outside antics crossing the line smack talk, sexual assault allegations, punching an elderly man in the face, and the list goes on. He has venom in his veins and wants to spill the blood of McGregor. Unlike the love fest between Cerrone and McGregor where they said there was no bad blood, this potential matchup is full of bad blood and should they fight, blood will be spilled from both men.
I think this fight is the one that McGregor and his team are the least interested in because of Gaethje’s resume’ and his proclivity to violent exchanges in the phone booth. McGregor works better from the distance using his length and quickness to land and drop his foes, whereas Gaethje likes to get in close and land potential fight-ending striking sequences, even though he may get tagged, he feels his strikes are going to take him to victory against anyone who will stand and trade with him.
Gaethje and UFC President Dana White have been caught up in a beef of sorts, and need to talk to each other instead of through the media and go-betweens to get on the same page. Gaethje vs. McGregor would certainly check all the boxes for today’s UFC, and again, the world would be watching.
If McGregor wants to stay busy as he has stated, then Khabib, Usman and Masvidal may not fit into the schedule. Diaz, Aldo, and Gaethje seem to move to the front of the line based on availability alone, although Aldo may become a non-option here soon as it’s rumored that he will be getting a Bantamweight title shot against Henry Cejudo at UFC 250 in Sao Paulo May 9th, leaving Diaz and Gaethje as the two most viable options.
At the end of the day, McGregor’s fights bring the crowds! It seems to not matter who he is facing, just that he is fighting. I almost believe he could stand in the octagon alone for 15 minutes and babble about money, cars, and Proper no.12 and would still get 500k buys.
The fans want it to be Masvidal, McGregor wants it to be Khabib, and we all just want to know who’s next because we are impatient! McGregor has said March is when he wants to go again so I don’t expect we will have to wait too long to know whom he chooses. My gut tells me Diaz and Conor will be next! Who do you think gets it?
Christopher James has been in the MMA industry for 15 years, Working as a ring announcer for promotions like the XFC, Island Fights, Combat Night and Fight Nights Global during his career. Chris’ love for the sport and the athletes that partake in it led him to writing and doing face to face interviews with the athletes he admired and respected. Chris isn’t conventional by any stretch of the imagination, he has his own style, and takes pride in not being a “cookie-cutter” member of the media. Unique and sometimes controversial takes are what he brings to the table, forcing folks to think a little differently about the world of MMA. He also has a love for music as he has been a dj for 25 years and his love for music gets brought to the MMA world when he gets his guests to sing on his weekly show Cage Side with Christopher James which can be seen Wednesday nights on FACEBOOK LIVE, and soon via podcast.