Conor McGregor inhabits a cruel and unforgiving landscape.
After back to back wars with a man whose savage relentlessness is the envy of even the most indefatigable horror movie villains, the Dubliner stares headlong into a future littered with yet further mammoth challenges.
Things just aren’t going to get any easier for the charismatic Pay-per-view sensation.
In the eyes of many, a drop back down to 145lbs would take the pressure off slightly, as the power in his vaunted left-hand has proven a real x-factor at that weight. But this means enduring another extremely tough cut. Not to mention that the opponent awaiting him down there is widely considered to be the greatest fighter in the history of the division. Yes, McGregor smashed Jose Aldo to pieces inside just 13 seconds when they first met, but the Brazilian was too good for too long to be written off in a rematch.
If he decides to go in the complete opposite direction and fights at 170lbs next, he will find himself woefully outmatched in terms of size. Even more troublesome for McGregor though are the styles of his most likely opponents. Tyron Woodley, Nick Diaz and Georges St-Pierre are the names that have been most commonly discussed and the Irishman does not match-up favourably with any of them.
Of course, nobody considers a campaign at welterweight a particularly realistic option at this point.
The likely outcome, it would seem, is a move to lightweight. 155lbs is the weight at which most believe McGregor will be his fittest and healthiest. However, while the SBG product might be at his optimal performance weight, the level of opposition in the lightweight division is downright scary and McGregor matches up quite badly with the cream of this particular crop.
If the 28-year-old does decide to invade the division next, he is likely to face current champion Eddie Alvarez in his first fight. UFC president Dana White has already said that the company would be willing to grant McGregor the title shot as long as he is willing to relinquish his featherweight strap.
So what sort of challenges does Alvarez present?
He is as seasoned as they come, like Diaz he has a very sturdy chin and has only been stopped via strikes on one occasion – almost ten years ago. He possesses an iron will, serious power, a rounded skill-set, including an excellent grappling game and good boxing fundamentals. What’s more, the Philadelphia native has stated in the past that he would commit to a grappling heavy approach were he to fight McGregor.
Sounds like something of a nightmare, right?
Yet, despite all of this, former UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub believes that Alvarez is the best match-up for ‘The Notorious’ one in the upper-echelons of the division. Not a good one by any stretch, but still the best.
Schaub made the comment on a recent edition of The Joe Rogan Experience, much to the confusion of his host, who subsequently challenged him on it.
“I could not imagine how you would say that the champion is his easiest fight,” said Joe Rogan. “Eddie Alvarez? I don’t think that’s an easy fight for anybody. Eddie Alvarez is a fucking monster.”
Schaub’s response illustrated just how dire he feels McGregor’s situation would be at 155lbs.
“Exactly, that’s what I’m saying. It’s not good for Conor. It’s a rough fight for him. But stylistically, out of the top 5[it’s the easiest]. I’m like, fuck sakes man.”
An examination of the UFC’s lightweight rankings does back up Schaub’s comment somewhat.
The top three of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and Rafael dos Anjos are a murderers’ row that would present all manner of problems for McGregor with their size, toughness and grappling guile. Nate Diaz sits at number four and we already know how tough a fight that is. Rounding out the top five contenders, tied with Diaz, is Brazilian killer Edson Barboza. He may be the one that McGregor matches up with most favourably, but his explosive kicking game is a danger to all.
McGregor certainly has a number of intriguing and potentially lucrative options in front of him, but he has absolutely no easy ones.
As Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Eddie Bravo adds at one point in the below video however, he probably isn’t looking for them.