Who should Conor McGregor fight on return to the Octagon? Ranking 5 possibilities

When Conor McGregor finally put the teasing of MayMac x2 to rest, MMA fans breathed a sigh of relief. As much as the first fight was exhausting, many fans could not endure the media circus and over-zealous hype that would come with a rematch.

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What was behind it all? In my opinion, it was just a publicity stunt to keep things ticking over. McGregor is a mastermind at staying in the limelight. Whether it’s negative or positive, the old saying ‘Any publicity is good publicity’ probably applies.

With that possibility forgotten, an intriguing Instagram post from ‘The Notorious’ had many fans talking. While you do have to take social media posts with a pinch of salt, recent updates have suggested Conor is back in training and getting in shape for some form of return. Recently, he shed light as to his next stomping ground.

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Without going in to too much detail of the possible ‘Edgar vs McGregor’ fight – one thing his clear. He’s going to be back in the Octagon sooner rather than later.

But who is he going to fight? I’m going to weigh up 5 possibilities that could be on the cards.

5. Tyron Woodley 

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PHOTO CREDIT – THE RING MAGAZINE

When McGregor shed light on an imminent UFC return, no one salivated at the mouth more than UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley.

Woodley has been actively seeking big fights, or more accurately ‘Money fights’, and everyone knows there is no bigger payday than fighting The Notorious. There has been tension between these two before. Backstage at UFC 205 in MSG, the two exchanged verbals that sparked rumours. Nothing came of the eventuality as Conor moved his attention to the boxing ring.

Could we see Conor fight for a Welterweight title on his return? It is unlikely. But, then again, this is Conor McGregor we are talking about. So the possibility is there.

Down the line, a Welterweight title fight is on McGregor’s mind. But it is likely if he returns to fight for an title, that it won’t be at Welterweight.

4. Max Holloway 

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PHOTO CREDIT – GETTY IMAGES 

The story of this rematch is already set.

Conor, after fighting a young, inexperienced Holloway in 2013, has one up on the Hawaiian. Max, since his loss to McGregor, has gone 12-0 since that loss and crowned himself the King of the Featherweight division, which was once ruled by McGregor. And now, after years of growth and development, is looking for his revenge.

It’s a fantastic story, and most fans would be disappointed not to see it come to fruition at some stage. Recently, McGregor gave Holloway his blessing in a social media post, so there is an element of respect there. Having said that, that ‘respect’ would probably go out the window after a press-conference or two.

Holloway finds himself in a positive/negative situation in the Featherweight division. On a negative note, there aren’t many stand-out contenders after Frankie Edgar, given he is successful with that fight. Yes, you can say Brian Ortega deserves a shot, or maybe Darren Elkins or Jeremy Stephens – but it’s nothing to write home about.

On a positive note, that opens up the avenue for a potential jump to Lightweight. Who’s the current champion at Lightweight? Conor McGregor. There you go. Fight set. It is an excitable match up, but Conor needs to deal with at least one contender to his Lightweight throne before Holloway gets the nod.

3. Georges St Pierre 

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PHOTO CREDIT – METRO UK 

Out of all the possibilities, there may not be a bigger matchup for PPV numbers than GSP vs. McGregor.

St Pierre has hinted at wanting to face Conor before he retires. After a successful Middleweight Title win over Michael Bisping, GSP has decided to vacate and move back to his old stomping ground of 170 pounds. This makes GSP vs. McGregor all the more likely.

None the less, the UFC would be silly not to make this super fight a reality at some point. But is now the right time? GSP hasn’t hinted at when he is going to return this year, if at all. He is dealing with the aftermath of ulcerative colitis, or more commonly known as ‘stomach ulcers’. That may keep him sidelined for awhile.

A part of me wants this fight to happen as soon as, but logically it might not be the best move for either fighter. There will be a lot of eyes watching this fight if it happens, a lot will be at stake. GSP will want to experiment transitioning back to welterweight for the first time in several years. McGregor will want to have all the odds in his favour on return, which will more than likely result in him fighting at his most comfortable weight of 155.

Down the line, this is the fight to make, but we may be waiting awhile for it to happen.

 

2. Nate Diaz 

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PHOTO CREDIT – DAILY RECORD 

Diaz vs. McGregor 3 anyone?

In the famous ‘can throwing’ pre-fight press conference to UFC 202, McGregor made a prediction that he would win the rematch – leading to a trilogy. Well, he did win the rematch. So will we see a third fight on his return?

The advantage Diaz has is the ability to fight at lightweight. It would be a very bold move by the UFC, but they could book McGregor vs. Diaz for Conor’s lightweight strap – if he’s even champion anymore (shrugs shoulders). No doubt there would be a few unhappy contenders at 155 if this fight was announced.

The Diaz/McGregor rivalry has captured the attention of casual sports fans, so it seems like an inevitable decision to put this rivalry to rest. However, playing devils advocate, Diaz hasn’t fought since last losing at UFC 202 in August of 2016. He has made it clear he wants to get paid quite a bit to return to the Octagon. But a part of me doubts his lone drawing power, especially after the lengthy time off.

While Diaz, like McGregor, has hinted he is ready to make a UFC return, I believe he needs to take a tune up fight of some sort. If he opts to wait out and get paid to fight Conor, he might be waiting another year, and that may leave UFC brass reluctant to grant him the opportunity given blatant inactivity. Especially when they could have done with his star power at some point over the last year or so.

Diaz vs. McGregor 3 will happen, but the balls are in Diaz’ court for now. If he can prove he can make lightweight again, and pull off an impressive win, there is no doubt he should be in talks for a third fight with Conor. Until then, the UFC will look elsewhere.

1. Tony Ferguson/Khabib Nurmagomedov winner 

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PHOTO CREDIT – MMA FIGHTING 

This is the fight to make.

McGregor is, after all, the last undisputed Lightweight Champion. Since his absence, Tony Ferguson has emerged as a worthy interim title holder – and Khabib Nurmagomedov continues to be one of the best fighters in the UFC without a title around their waist.

The ‘Defend or Vacate’ movement will be silenced. Conor McGregor will prove he is committed to fighting the top guys in the sport – and the UFC’s Lightweight division will finally be removed from it’s purgatory state.

It is unclear whether McGregor still holds his lightweight title, but regardless, he will be the UFC’s first choice to fight whoever emerges victorious. Both Khabib and Ferguson are able to hold their own when it comes to exchanging profanities and general trash talk. Stylistically, they both pose interesting obstacles for Conor. Khabib will be the ultimate test for his takedown defense and ground game, while Ferguson will test McGregor’s cardio to limits it has never seen before.

Essentially, these two are at the top of their game in McGregor’s chosen division. If McGregor wants to test himself against the best, these two are the best.

The possibility of a McGregor win opens up the doors for so many potential fights after this. A Max Holloway title vs. title superfight, a Tyron Woodley title vs. title superfight – even giving Nate Diaz a shot at the belt in their trilogy. But with all those spectacles, they all have to go through McGregor fighting for the LW strap. And due to his absence, he has some business to take care of before these ‘money’ fights can be discussed.

Thank you for reading. If you have any suggestions on what article I should write next, let me know. Check out some of my other articles this week on the NBA and the world of Mixed Martial Arts. 

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT – DAILY EXPRESS

 

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