Conor McGregor ended his three-plus year wait for a victory inside the Octagon when he took out Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone inside 40 seconds in the main event of UFC 246. But what should be next for ‘The Notorious’?
He certainly has options. The welterweight division’s finest are all open to a big-money match with the Irish superstar, while Floyd Mayweather has even hinted at a possible rematch. And of course, he could also be tempted to settle some old scores or end some rivalries for good before he finally hangs up his gloves – MMA ones and boxing ones.
So here we run down the men who could be at the front of the queue for a ‘red panty night’ in the next couple of years! And I know we said there would be five picks… well, we are good to you. We have thrown in a bonus pick too!
McGregor v Nate Diaz 3
Everybody loves a trilogy and there would arguably be no bigger trilogy fight in the history of mixed martial arts than a third meeting between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz.
When Diaz agreed to step in and replace Rafael dos Anjos at short notice in March 2016, few would have predicted the rivalry that would follow. That was supposed to be the night that McGregor beat RDA to become the first man in UFC history to hold titles in two different weight classes at the same time, but instead it was the night where the Irishman tasted defeat in the Octagon for the very first time. Fighting at welterweight (Diaz could not get down to 155lb at the time), McGregor simply ran out of steam against a fighter who was renowned for his outstanding cardio. As ‘The Notorious’ slowed down, Diaz picked up the pace, rocking his opponent with strikes and forcing him into an ill-advised takedown attempt. Simply put, McGregor had no business trying to compete with Diaz on the mat. The Stockton native quickly found the Irishman’s back, sank in a rear-naked choke and forced him to concede defeat in front of the entire world.
McGregor immediately called for a rematch between the pair and he was quite clear in how he wanted the fight to go down. Instead of dropping back down to lightweight, which would have probably suited both fighters, they remained at welterweight for their second encounter and what followed was a 25-minute war that needed the judges to determine a winner. McGregor got the nod, but many felt Diaz had done enough to get a score the ‘W’ and once again all of the post-match talk was about a rubber match between the pair. To this date that has not happened, but considering the business the first two bouts did the UFC would almost certainly love to complete this trilogy before either man hangs up his gloves for good.
McGregor v Khabib Nurmagomedov 2
When Conor McGregor made history in November 2016 by becoming the first man to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes at the same time, UFC fans could not have imagined that it would be almost another two years before the Irishman stepped into the Octagon once again. A super-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr resulted in McGregor crossing over into the world of boxing, but ‘The Notorious’ never took his eyes off the UFC and continued to ruffle feathers in the media and on social media.
One of his biggest targets was fast-rising Russian star Khabib Nurmagomedov, who had established himself as one of the premier fighters in the lightweight division by dominating opponent after opponent and racking up win after win. Merely taking a round off ‘The Eagle’ appeared to be an almost impossible, but McGregor was confident that he could not only take a round off the Russian, he could become the first man to beat him too.
It was only a matter of time before the rivalry blew up and when it did the boundaries of good taste were not tested. They were, quite frankly, thrown out of the window. From the infamous incident involving an attack on a fighter bus at a UFC media day to tasteless comments made in the build-up to the fight at UFC 229, this rivalry crossed almost every line imaginable and the night of the fight itself was not without controversy. The bout and the result – a dominant submission win for Nurmagomedov – were nothing to be questioned, but the behaviour afterwards was as the Russian leapt into the crowd to fight with McGregor’s corner while the Irishman himself was attacking from behind by a members of Nurmagomedov’s camp.
Both men were punished by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in the aftermath, but you can be very certain that there will be very little resistance from the authorities if a rematch is scheduled in ‘Sin City’ in the future, and you know the UFC would love nothing more than to book Khabib-Conor 2 because it will be like a licence to print money. McGregor is keen to avenge that humiliating loss too, so if both parties and the UFC can get on the same page, we should see a rematch somewhere down the line.
McGregor v Jorge Masvidal
2019 was quite simply the best year of Jorge Masvidal’s professional career as he shot to stardom on the back of sensational knockout wins, and he wrapped up that successful year by officially being crowned the ‘Baddest Motherf****r’ in the UFC. Masvidal stopped Nate Diaz in controversial fashion to claim the BMF title in November, and if there is one man on the entire UFC roster that believes the belt is around the waist of the wrong man, it is likely to be McGregor.
And of course, the BMF title is a clear route to a shot at welterweight gold and if McGregor has set his sights on becoming the first three-weight champion in UFC history, then he will probably have to get past ‘Gamebred’ to earn that shot at the top prize at 170lbs.
It will be widely debated whether or not it would be wise for ‘The Notorious’ to sign on the dotted line to face the BMF champion, but there would be no shortage of fireworks to keep the fans entertained from the build-up to the bout itself. Masvidal clearly wants it and McGregor has had no problems taking verbal jabs at in return, so could we see the pair determine who is the ‘baddest motherf****r’ in the UFC once and for all inside the Octagon?
McGregor v Jose Aldo 2
The rivalry between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo is one of the biggest in UFC history, so it is pretty remarkable that the pair spent just 13 seconds in combat and threw only a handful of punches when they met back at UFC 194.
Aldo had been the premier featherweight fighter on the planet for several years, boasting a decade-long unbeaten streak, but from the minute he made his highly-anticipated debut in the UFC, McGregor had his eyes on the talented Brazilian. The Irishman quickly climbed the featherweight ladder in order to receive a shot at Aldo at UFC 189, and when the two men signed on to face each other the UFC went into overdrive hyping the bout, holding press conferences around the globe and producing a video advert that still inspires goosebumps to this day. Thy hype was all for nothing though, as Aldo withdrew from the fight with an injury just weeks before it was due to take place.
Chad Mendes stepped in to fill the void and was subsequently knocked out, ensuring that McGregor remained at the front of the queue to face Aldo when he returned a few months later. Once again the two men put pen-to-paper on a fight agreement and this time the Brazilian made it to the fight. Afterwards he probably wished he had not. McGregor stepped back to take the sting out of a right-left combination from Aldo and countered with a right hand that dropped the Brazilian to the mat. McGregor then landed a couple more shots on a prone Aldo before John McCarthy dived in to wave it off with just 13 seconds on the clock.
Aldo called it a lucky punch, but a video released later on showed that McGregor had been practicing the exact movement and punch he used to stop Aldo while warming up for the bout. The finish was spectacular, but was it satisfying. To some the answer is yes, to others it is no. But there is one thing for sure, if McGregor and Aldo agree to a rematch then the eyes of the MMA world will be on it.
Conor McGregor v Max Holloway 2
The original fight between Conor McGregor and Max Holloway happened so long ago that you could be forgiven for forgetting that it even happened. Six years in itself is not a long time, but so much has happened for both fighters since that night that there is a huge amount of intrigue in the two men meeting in a rematch.
McGregor, of course, went on to become a two-weight world champion and face Floyd Mayweather in a huge super-fight in August 2017, while Holloway rebounded from the loss by reeling off 13 straight wins to cement his status as the number one featherweight fighter on the planet. He did come up short in his quest to become a two-weight world champion earlier this year, but there is no doubting that ‘Blessed’ has improved dramatically since the summer of 2013 when McGregor managed to best him over three rounds despite fighting with a badly injured knee.
Does McGregor have Holloway’s number, or has the Hawaiian improved to the point where has now surpassed the Irishman as a fighter? There is only one way to find out – the pair need to share the Octagon once again and there are not many fight fans out there who would not want to see that happen!
Bonus Pick: McGregor v Paulie Malignaggi (why not!)
Was he knocked down? Were the pictures misleading? Depending on who you speak to you will get a very different story about how things unfolded when Conor McGregor sparred with former world champion boxer Paulie Malignaggi in the build-up to his super-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr back in the summer of 2017. There is, of course, one way to settle this dispute – that is in the boxing ring or in the Octagon.
Malignaggi has taken every single opportunity to call out and insult McGregor since photographs of that infamous session made their way onto the internet, but so far it has not led to an actual fight between the two men. The brash New Yorker had perhaps been aiming to lure the Irishman into a fight when he took on McGregor’s training partner, Artem Lobov, in a bare knuckle fight earlier this year, but he embarrassed himself as he dropped a decision defeat to the Russian fighter after a performance that will hardly instil fear in McGregor.
In the aftermath of that loss Malignaggi was urged to finally call time on his combat sports career, but there is one fight that would almost certainly lure him back into the boxing ring. That is a fight with McGregor. The question is will the Irishman give the American what he wants, or will this turn out to be a rivalry built on verbal and social media jabs instead of actual punches?