“They think I’m toast, but I’m still the bread.”
Like he has time and time again, Conor McGregor spoke something into existence. A week before his January 18th fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, McGregor spoke out against everyone who was doubting him, all who claimed he was washed up. Twitter was filled with keyboard warriors claiming that McGregor’s rise to fame destroyed his intense work ethic that propelled him to become the UFC’s first simultaneous two-division champion.
40 seconds into his fight against Cerrone, McGregor showed us that he was, indeed, still the bread. Through a combination of shoulder strikes and cracking kick to the head, McGregor dropped Cerrone and finished him off with a flurry of punches.
McGregor looked phenomenal. Fighting in the welterweight division for the first time in almost four years, he seemed extremely comfortable at the heavier weight. He was crisp and precise. In the weeks leading up the fight, he displayed the “Old Conor” mentality, the famous focus and dedication that led him to become the most popular mixed martial artist of all time.
After his quick work of Cerrone, McGregor was back on top. The attention of the MMA world was, yet again, squarely focused on him.
With his dominant showing and renewed energy and talks of fighting three times in 2020, many are wondering what, and when, his next fight will be. As is always the case with a fighter of McGregor’s stature, there are a plethora of fights available to him, ranging multiple weight divisions. McGregor didn’t simplify matters by calling out “all these mouthy fools” post-fight, but there are four fights that all are extremely conceivable and have been discussed at certain points over the last month.
This article will breakdown these four possible fights and grade them in terms of the likelihood of them happening, and the fan interest in them.
Dana White, the President of the UFC, loves the big-money fights. That is why it was extremely surprising when White dismissed the rumors of a Masvidal-McGregor fight. This is the fight to make in the UFC right now. The biggest star of all time in McGregor vs. the hottest fighter on the roster in Masvidal, fresh off a ‘Fighter of the Year’ award after his absurd run of finishes in 2019.
Ever since Masvidal’s five second destruction of Ben Askren, and subsequent “BMF” title bout against Nate Diaz, Masvidal’s profile has rose to McGregor-like levels. Masvidal has some of the best knockout power in the game and a McGregor-Masvidal matchup would ensure that bombs would be thrown.
Most importantly, Masvidal has the trash talk to verbally spar with McGregor. The press conferences, which often serve as McGregor’s mental warfare platform, would be must watch televison.
This fight has it all. Knockout power. Superstars. Trash talk. Style. Hype.
Fan Interest: 10/10 / Chance of Happening: 4/10
In his post-fight press conference, McGregor discussed a possible Diaz trilogy fight, simply saying:
“Let’s go, Nathan. Number Three. It’s always here.”
The first two fights between Diaz and McGregor fostered one of the greatest MMA rivalries of the decade. The war of words in the build-up to both fights were legendary and both fights were iconic. Diaz’s massive upset in the first fight led to one of the greatest fights of all time in the rematch- a five-round bloodbath, which McGregor ultimately won by decision.
A third fight has been discussed for years but has never come to fruition as both fighters have gone separate routes. No one would argue that a third fight isn’t needed. An animosity still lingers between the two, ensuring that the trash talk between the two is guaranteed to be fantastic and both fighters offer an interesting stylistic matchup for one another.
We all wish the trilogy happened a couple of years ago, but no one is complaining if one of the greatest rivalries of all time is reviewed for the defining third fight.
Fan Interest: 8.3/10 / Chance of Happening: 4/10
Similar to the draw of a Masvidal fight, Gaethje is a brawler with some of the best knockout power in the game. He puts people’s lights out and is on a run of unreal knockouts (similar to Masvidal). The issue with Gaethje is that he does not offer the name value and starpower that Masvidal, Diaz and Khabib do when the UFC is looking to book a McGregor fight. The question that needs to be answered regarding this fight is whether the UFC feels comfortable booking Gaethje as a pay-per-view main event across from McGregor.
With regards to the actual fight itself. Gaethje has called out McGregor multiple times and McGregor’s trainer, John Kavanagh, has stated that his ideal next fight for McGregor is Gaethje. With ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reporting that Gaethje-McGregor has been discussed by the UFC for this summer, this fight has real legs and the likelihood of it actually happening continues to rise.
Fan Interest: 5.8/10 / Chance of Happening: 5.5/10
The rematch between Khabib and McGregor is going to happen. Despite how many times Khabib has claimed that he won’t fight McGregor again, Dana White has reiterated over and over that McGregor will fight Khabib again. It is just a matter of when it is going to happen.
Assuming Khabib continues his run of dominance and defeats Tony Ferguson in April, Khabib’s next fight will likely take place over the last couple of months of 2020. According to White, and McGregor himself, McGregor may not want to wait almost a year to fight Khabib. The fight is going to happen, but I wouldn’t bet that Khabib is next in line for McGregor.
While the fight itself will have immense amounts of interest and anticpation, Khabib’s domination of McGregor in the first fight certainly dulled some fan’s interest. McGregor was dealing with a broken foot and admitted to not being focused and not commited in the leadup to the first bout. The new and improved version of McGregor certainly poses more of a threat to Khabib, but no one has shown any sign of slowing Khabib down. A focused Conor has a chance, but Khabib would still be a heavy favorite.
Furthermore, this rivalry seems to bring out the worse in both men. There press conferences were dark, with vile rhetoric being spewed by McGregor, and Khabib’s post-fight melee left a bad taste in many fan’s mouths. It was welcome to see a humble and respectful McGregor again against Cerrone. No one wants to see him revert back to the chaotic version of himself that he was before the first Khabib fight.
Fan Interest: 6.1/10 / Chance of Happening: 9.5/10