Conor McGregor says he is negotiating a July return to the cage. Who should he fight?
Cole Henry, Host – MMA Scope Podcast
Well we know that Khabib is suspended, Dustin Poirier is fighting Max Holloway, Ferguson is dealing with personal problems, Donald Cerrone is supposedly fighting Al Iaquinta, and nobody else really makes sense for McGregor. So that pretty much just leaves Nate Diaz. Diaz hasn’t competed in over two years so it’s difficult to include him amongst the division’s top-ranked fighters but we all know that he and McGregor must settle the score at some point and now seems like as good of a time as ever.
Sean Covington, Columnist – Covington’s Corner
He should fight Max Holloway! Both Conor and Max need a big opponent in their next fight, what better opponent than each other? This sets up a trilogy in the future with quite possibly, a title on the line. Conor not having a money fight coming back to MMA could actually hurt him because we are used to seeing that from him no matter where he goes.
Frank Hyden, Columnist – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The UFC needs to go with UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson as that’s the fight to make. At the same time, though, that fight seems cursed so I’m sure they’re hesitant. If the UFC books that fight, though, they should book McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier. Or if they go with Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier, McGregor vs. Ferguson should also happen. Reason being is, you might as well try to get what you can from McGregor before he either gets himself thrown in prison or moves on to other ventures or is forgotten about by the casual viewers. The last thing people saw of McGregor in the cage was of him getting dominated by Nurmagomedov.
The UFC could go the route of building McGregor back up by giving him opponents he can beat and hoping he beats them, but you’d also have to hope that Nurmagomedov loses the title because the odds of McGregor beating him don’t seem all that good. That’s also more of a long-term plan as McGregor would need at least two or three big finishes to make people forget about his loss to Nurmagomedov.
By going with McGregor fighting the odd man out of the title fight, you either accelerate that or you give your next challenger a huge boost. If Ferguson or Poirier beats McGregor, that’s a nice feather in their cap and you can weave that into the buildup for their title fight. If McGregor wins, Mystic Mac is back and all that stuff. Or they could just have him fight Nate Diaz again, which seems a bit more like what they would do.
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Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch Managing Editor
I really wanted the Donald Cerrone fight, but that’s off the table now as Cerrone will be fighting Al Iaquinta in May. I suppose they could do a quick turnaround for Cerrone if he wins, but that doesn’t seem to be the direction UFC is headed. Rumblings of a third Nate Diaz fight have begun, and that is a trilogy that needs to be completed, it just doesn’t feel like the right time for that. If the end game is to set up a rematch between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for later in the year, McGregor should fight the winner of next month’s Max Holloway-Dustin Poirier fight. On paper at least, either fight is winnable for McGregor since he holds wins over both Holloway and Poirier. This is where booking this interim title fight actually sets up a roadblock to the fight they really want, which is Khabib-Conor II.
If I’m booking a fight just for my own entertainment, I book McGregor against Justin Gaethje regardless of what happens when he fights Edson Barboza in Philadelphia next week.