No one is exactly sure when, or if, Conor McGregor will be making his long awaited return to the UFC. The Irish superstar retired back in March via Twitter: “Hey guys quick announcement, I’ve decided to retire from the sport formally known as “Mixed Martial Art” today. I wish all my old colleagues well going forward in competition. I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement. Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas!” Recently, there has been rumors and reports that “The Notorious” will be making a comeback. Dana White stated two weeks ago that McGregor will definitely return to the octagon before the end of this year: “Conor is a competitor, man. He loves to fight. This is his passion in life” (TMZ Sports). White also went on to say that he’s not sure who will get the first crack at the former two division champ, as that remains up in the air for now. McGregor (21-4) has made it known that he wants a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0), but he will most likely have to earn another shot at the current Lightweight champion since he lost to him by submission in his last fight at UFC 229 (October 2018). Don’t worry though Conor, I have some ideas on who you should match up with when you finally decide to return to the cage…
Before Khabib came into play, Nate Diaz (20-11) was McGregor’s top foe. After Diaz shocked the world by submitting McGregor in the 2nd round at UFC 196 (March 2016), the Irishman came right back to even the series up at one apiece by taking out the Stockton native at UFC 202 (August 2016) via majority decision. People have been eager to see the trilogy ever since. They still have a strong disliking for each other, as Diaz felt he got robbed in the rematch: “I watched the fight, I thought I won it for sure…after the first round all the way through” (bjpenn.com). This would be a highly anticipated event, that would likely have a sold out crowd and tons of pay-per-view buys. Their 2nd fight at UFC 202 was the most bought UFC pay-per-view of all time (until UFC 229) with a buy rate of $1.65 million. Both men have said they want to settle the score, so wouldn’t this be a perfect welcoming match for McGregor?
After his recent loss to Tony Ferguson less than two weeks ago at UFC 238, Cowboy (36-12) finds himself as the #4 ranked lightweight. Who is ahead of him at #3 you may ask? Yes, you guessed it…Conor McGregor. These two have been linked to a possible fight numerous times in the past, but never got anywhere due to issues with McGregor agreeing to certain terms: “Conor won’t fight unless it’s a main event. I don’t know if it’s an ego thing or a status thing for him…I guess he’s a prima donna and only takes main event spots” Cerrone said (Business Insider). He has called him out more than once and has been waiting on McGregor to accept. The most recent was this past May, after his unanimous decision win over Al Iaquinta at UFC Ottawa: “I want the title unless Conor McGregor wants to fight me in July, I’m ready…let’s do it.” Of course now after his loss to Ferguson, the title isn’t in the picture for Cowboy, but you’d have to believe a win over McGregor would put him right back into consideration. The same can be said for McGregor, who could help his claim with a win over a top ranked opponent. Fans would love to watch these guys go at it, as the two of them have a combined 28 knockouts. I’m sure it would be an excellent fight full of action and lots of leg kicks.
Right behind the two men just mentioned at #5 on the lightweight rankings, is the exciting Justin Gaethje (20-2). “The Highlight” has been red hot, as he’s coming off two straight 1st round knockouts. Gaethje has quickly became a fan favorite since his UFC debut (July 2017). He is currently 3-2 in the UFC with all 5 of his fights ending in a knockout. He fights like a warrior, always staying in his opponents face, no matter how much damage he’s taking, and throwing a barrage of strikes. Gaethje has made it known that he wants to fight McGregor next: “Conor sounds like he’s coming back, so I’m the man. If he’s going to fight someone it has to be me…that’s the fight I want” (TMZ Sports). He thinks it makes sense since they are very close to each other in rankings, and believes a victory over him is a great way to get a chance at the title. Everyone knows McGregor is the big money fight, which is exactly what Gaethje wants. Similar to a fight with Cerrone, this would be an electrifying return for McGregor that would have a high chance of ending with someone being slept. They have a total of 16 fights together in the UFC, with only 2 ever going the distance. If there’s one thing The Notorious loves more than anything, it’s money, and a fight with Gaethje would surely lead to a big payday.
Conor McGregor’s return will be great news for the UFC. No one knows who he would fight first, but I can bet that if it’s any of the three men I mentioned, no one would be disappointed.
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