Conor McGregor’s stock could not be higher right now. His face is everywhere, his brand is growing and every fighter on the planet wants a slice of the pie.
Every UFC fan is praying for him to knock out Floyd and return home the prodigal son, and if he does, there will be some familiar faces ready to have a crack at him…
The trilogy has to happen, it is as simple as that. The chapter has to be closed to offer some closure for both fighters.
Nate, despite not being in the top five of the lightweight division has gained a cult following even before his fights with McGregor and since, his stock has only risen. This means that Diaz v McGregor III is probably the biggest money fight the UFC has available to them, with only Lesnar v Jones as competition.
Expect Nate, who is carefully avoiding other fights, to jump the queue if and when Conor returns. The fact that the first two fights were so entertaining only amplifies the need for the third. A nailed on certainty.
This is entirely reliant on his showdown with Tony Ferguson. The fight that every hard-core MMA has been dying to see, will determine who the king of the lightweight division is. While Nate will inevitably get the first shot, if McGregor is serious about staying as champion and defending his belt, then he will have to face the unbeaten Russian (Or Tony) at some point.
Khabib’s name hold a certain amount of prestige and awe in the UFC and his Russian following (he has 2.5 millions Instagram followers) indicate that despite not being recognizable everywhere, he is still a star. Dana White’s admission that Conor has been quoted saying ‘I want Khabib in Russia,’ hints that this fight is more than just a fans dream.
His weight cutting issues will hamper the likelihood of this fight happening massively, but if he can prove that these issues are a thing of the past and put on a show against Tony, Khabib could easily fight Conor McGregor.
Likelihood: 8/10 (Depending on the Ferguson fight)
Again, this is entirely dependent on how the Khabib fight plays out. If he wins though, Ferguson would be on one of the longest and most distinguished runs in MMA history. His matchup with Conor would be a display of two of the best strikers in the UFC. Ferguson’s unpredictable, loose combinations and funky style against Conor’s equally crisp striking would make for a tantalising affair.
The fact that Ferguson is now doing analyst work on FOX and starting to talk a bit of trash helps his claim as he is starting to be noticed in the public eye.
If he can put away Khabib in emphatic style on a huge card, the casual UFC fans will start to realise that Ferguson is the real deal. He needs to gain a bit more notoriety if he is to take on the Notorious One himself, but there is still plenty of time, a lot can happen in a year.
Likelihood: 6/10 (Depending on the Khabib fight)
This will only happen if Conor has the confidence and arrogance to go after that third belt. I don’t reckon confidence should be a problem…
The only issue here is that Woodley is slowly harvesting a reputation as a boring fighter. His last two fights against Wonderboy and Damian Maia have received a huge amount of criticism from fans and even Woodley’s own boss, Dana White.
Woodley is also a huge 170lb fighter and would be a very difficult matchup stylistically for Conor. Would Dana White risk his prized ‘unicorn’ against Woodley? The only variable here that matters, is what Conor wants to do. It is not beyond imagination to think that Conor will return and demand a shot at Woodley’s belt. Despite all the factors pointing to this not happening, Conor’s ego may overrule them all.
Georges St. Pierre
Now…say GSP was to drop to 170lb to challenge for the title, we could have an entirely different story on our hands. No one knows how long it will take Conor to migrate back over to the UFC. With this being said, a lot can happen in the meantime.
Win or lose to Michael Bisping, it is very possible that GSP will avoid taking on the hungry lions of Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold in order to challenge Tyron Woodley for his belt. A GSP v McGregor fight would be a much more appealing prospect.
In fact, this would be bringing two of the biggest names in UFC history together. Knowing Dana White, this would be too tempting to pass up. Obviously this requires a lot of pieces to slide into place, but it is certainly in the realms of reality. One of the original superstars of the UFC against the current face of the UFC. Mouthwatering
The featherweight division has a new champion. Currently on an eleven fight win streak, Holloway is red hot at the moment. Defeating Conor’s past rival José Aldo adds a certain amount of intrigue to the fight as well.
Conor will have noticed that the division he once ruled over, now has a new, young and talented champion, that people in the MMA world talking about. Could this sting Conor’s pride, to know that ‘his’ division has forgotten him? Possibly.
Although Conor handed Holloway his last loss back in 2013, a lot has changed. If the UFC want to have a super fight between two of the best pound-for pound champions in the UFC it would make for amazing viewing. Unfortunately nowadays the UFC rely too heavily on ratings and Holloway just does not have that X-factor.
This one is more of a long-term prediction and could turn out to be horribly wrong. However, I believe that Kevin Lee could play the pantomime villain fantastically for the UFC.
At 24 years of age and with nine wins from his last ten, Lee’s talent is undeniable. What makes him more enticing though, is the way he is speaking and building his fights. Just look at the antics between Lee and Michael Chiesa, where it became very clear that Lee is more than happy to embrace the ‘bad guy’ role.
Interestingly he is starting to draw comparisons with a certain Floyd Mayweather and as we all know, people pay to watch someone they love to hate… I would say that Lee is a win away from cracking the top five and further down the line he could be a genuine contender.
Likelihood: 1/10 (now) and 7/10 (In a years’ time)
Max Hamid, Pundit Arena