A few short months ago on this site, we posted an article which queried whether Conor McGregor was worth the drama he brings with him whenever he renews his acquaintances with UFC. We also wondered whether he still had the desire and the drive to compete at the highest level of the sport. We now have answers to both of those questions. The fighting Irishman managed to almost completely avoid controversy in the buildup to UFC 246, and he won in style.

It’s almost impossible to analyze the fight on account of the fact that it lasted forty seconds. For all the warnings about his ability before the bell rang, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone appeared to freeze the moment the bout got underway in Las Vegas. McGregor did the exact opposite. Reminding us all that he doesn’t get paid by the hour, McGregor hurled himself at his unfortunate opponent with vicious intent, breaking Cerrone’s nose on almost the first contact. He may have been a little lucky with the way his shoulder unintentionally crashed into Cerrone’s face, but there was nothing lucky about the kick he followed up with. Cerrone was in no position to continue, and the opinion of the world’s press was that the Cowboy had simply been destroyed.

With McGregor now back in the octagon – and seemingly back to stay for at least one more fight – attention now turns to who comes next. There’s no shortage of potential headline opponents for the Irishman, and Dana White is surely rubbing his hands with all the glee of someone who’s just worked out how to instantly hit the jackpot every time they spin the reels on casino website like Amigoslots.com. The comparison isn’t unjustified – there are almost as many potential opponents as there are combinations of symbols on the average online slots game, and the result of lining any of them up is a big payday for everyone involved. In fact, we suspect that McGregor’s next super fight is likely to generate more cash than hitting the jackpot on every game on an online slots website simultaneously.

By this point, you’ve probably seen the names in the frame, so let’s run the rule over McGregor’s potential suitors.

Manny Pacquiao

No, this is not a joke, and it’s an idea that comes straight from the mouth of the legendary Filipino fighter. Pacquiao had already called McGregor out before the Cerrone fight and has done so again in the days since the Irishman’s victory. This wouldn’t be a case of Pacquiao stepping inside the octagon, though – McGregor would have to put on his boxing gloves again and step inside the squared circle. While this would almost certainly be a huge pay-per-view draw, it’s hard to see what McGregor gets out of the fight. If he wins, he’s beaten an aging boxing legend who’s years past his prime. If he loses, then the history books will show that he lost to the guy that Mayweather beat, and the Mayweather defeat is still a sore point for Conor even now.

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

It’s been an open secret in the right game that Dana White has been in communication with Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather Jr’s team for several months. Dana White is not a boxing promoter, and we don’t believe he intends to become one. If he’s talking to Mayweather, it probably means he’s trying to tempt the undefeated fighter into a one-off, big-money cage fight. Given that McGregor was willing to step into Mayweather’s world for their last contest, this seems only fair. As with the boxing contest, though, the result would likely be inevitable. McGregor was never likely to beat Mayweather in a boxing match, and Mayweather is unlikely to be able to last with McGregor under UFC rules. That would level their feud at 1-1 and make both fighters millions of dollars, but wouldn’t do much for their legacies.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Like a potential Mayweather contest, this would be a rematch. Unlike a potential Mayweather contest, this would actually mean something in the context of McGregor’s UFC legacy and his fighting pride. Losing to Nurmagomedov hurt McGregor both professionally and personally, and damaged his image as a flawless fighter. McGregor had been especially vocal before the first fight even by his own standards, and the loss made him look somewhat foolish. A chance to settle the score would appeal to McGregor’s camp, and the money that would come with it would likely also appeal to the Russian. This is a fight that comes with an element of risk, though – if McGregor were to lose again, it would be hard to picture a future for him within the sport.

Kamaru Usman

Whether or not McGregor takes this fight may tell us a lot about how much he’s matured during his extended absence from the sport. Immediately prior to the McGregor – Cerrone fight, Kamaru Usman was extremely vocal about his dislike for McGregor and used a lot of obscene, personal insults to describe his feelings. A little later on the same evening, Usman claimed that his account had been hacked and that he wasn’t responsible for the posts. When asked about the matter after the fight, McGregor seemed less than convinced that any hacking had taken place, and implied that Usman had run his mouth and then thought better of it. The whole world knows that Conor McGregor doesn’t take kindly to insults, and a chance to shut Usman up would probably appeal to him. If he doesn’t do it, it’s because he thinks Usman is beneath him.

Jorge Masvidal

This might be the most likely option of those currently available to Team McGregor. Dana White is known to be keen on the idea, and many of the fight-loving public are keen to see it too. Jorge Masvidal might not have any personal history with McGregor, but as a pair of fighters with the potential to put on a classic, enthralling contest, it’s hard to think of a bigger draw in MMA than putting the two men together. During late 2018 and 2019, with McGregor largely absent from the spotlight, Masvidal is the man who put UFC on his back and ran with it. He’s a large box office draw and has a strong claim for being the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, with one possible exception. That exception is Conor McGregor. A straight-up fight for supremacy would be one for the ages, and it’s within Dana White’s means to deliver it.

Are we missing an obvious contender? Should McGregor take on a few lower-ranking opponents before he steps back in with top-level competition? As always, we’d love to read your thoughts down in the comments!


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