After suffering a horrific leg break in his loss to Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 264, we look at what could be next for MMA’s biggest superstar.
A Fourth Poirier Fight
As is unwaveringly the case with every McGregor loss, there is a large subsection of the MMA community, including the Irishman himself calling for an immediate rematch in the wake of a defeat.
Of course, with the controversy surrounding the finish of last weekend’s trilogy fight, it is understandable that McGregor will be itching to get back in there to avenge his most recent loss to Poirier just as he was following their second bout on Fight Island earlier this year.
What does seem clear in all this though, particularly with McGregor likely facing a long lay-off, is that The Diamond’s next trip to the Octagon will be a fight for the UFC Lightweight Championship against current champion Charles Oliviera later this year.
If Poirier does manage to defeat the Brazilian for the belt, there’s little doubt that the UFC will capitalize on the opportunity to have Conor and Dustin finally settle their rivalry with gold on the line, most likely in the early part of 2022.
Completing the Nate Diaz Trilogy
A fight that could seemingly be made at any time without losing any of its promotional lustre, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz’s massive fan bases make any bout between them a license to print money for the UFC.
And while early 2017 during McGregor’s reign as Champ Champ may have been the perfect time for the promotion to pull the trigger on a trilogy bout between the pair, having Diaz serve the adversary for Conor’s return could be the next best thing.
Just think about it, save for actually returning to the squared circle (We’ll get to that), facing off against the boxing-heavy approach of Diaz likely represents the smallest threat to Conor’s leg recovery, compared with facing off a leg-kick-loving contender such as Justin Gaethje.
With the imminent return of Nick Diaz also expected at UFC 266, the fight could be the perfect way to get both Diaz brothers competing in the same event.
Of all the fights on this list, despite not necessarily having the same implications in terms of the title picture at whichever weight they decide to compete at, the Diaz fight is commercially an almost guaranteed win for the promotion by drawing the more mainstream audience to the sport, whilst also offering an opportunity to stack the rest of the card to showcase some of the organizations’ burgeoning talents.
A Return to Boxing
Despite being under contract with the UFC, it is clear that McGregor operates under different rules than the rest of the promotion’s roster when it comes to competing in different combat sports. After all, when the Irishman took on Floyd Mayweather inside the ropes in 2017, Dana White played a large role in promoting the spectacle, serving as his Lightweight Champion’s hype man during the pre-fight press tour.
A McGregor return to pugilism was already on the cards at the start of this year, with rumours surrounding a potential fight with all-time great Manny Pacquiao before Conor signed to make his long-awaited UFC return on Fight Island earlier this year.
Of course, a return to boxing could go several different ways. In an era where YouTube boxing stars have reached the forefront of the sport, it would not come as a surprise if Conor decided to cash in on a mega-event against one of the Paul brothers. The Irishman’s strength of schedule has been insane since he reached the top of the UFC, and a boxing match against either Jake or Logan represents an opportunity to generate huge revenue whilst facing an opponent not nearly on his level in terms of pure skill.
A less obvious venture than the others mentioned on this list but a valid option, a fight between McGregor and perennial lightweight contender Tony Ferguson would provide a great gauge of where both men currently fit in the stacked 155lbs division with the added bonus of being almost guaranteed fireworks inside the Octagon.
Sure, Ferguson is currently riding a three-fight skid for the first time in his distinguished career, but his achievements inside the Octagon make him more than worthy of a fight with the Notorious.
Both fighters have a penchant for bringing the action, and a shared history at the top of the lightweight division only further serves to add intrigue to this potential matchup.
With both McGregor and El Cucuy looking to bounce back from losing streaks, fans could be sure to look forward to an entertaining war of words and an intriguing clash of styles inside the Octagon.
At just 33-years-old, even if McGregor decided to never compete again, his legacy would be secure as the undisputed biggest star to emerge from the UFC, and, crucially, as one of the greatest fighters to have stepped in the Octagon.
To compound this, the injuries the Irishman sustained last week is not the typical wear and tear that is to be treated as an inevitability from stepping in a cage with another highly trained professional athlete. The severity of McGregor’s injuries means that it will likely be months before he can even walk unassisted, let alone take part in the kind of training that is required to get into the physical condition necessary for a five-round fight.
Financially, McGregor is in a unique position among the vast majority of his colleagues in the UFC. The Irishman’s business exploits combined with his status as the biggest draw in the sport mean that he could never step in a ring or cage again and still have the kind of generational wealth that most people could not even fathom.
However, despite all this, it is highly unlikely that we never see McGregor return to competition once his injuries have healed. Regardless of your views on him as a person, McGregor clearly lives to compete, and for as long as he can continue to do that at a high level he almost certainly will.
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