By Hal Estep
After predictably finishing Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in 40 seconds, Conor McGregor is once again the hottest call-out in the UFC.
McGregor didn’t call anyone out specifically in his post-fight interview, but claimed he would fight any fool who challenged him. McGregor specifically pointed out “the fool in the housecoat,” Jorge Masvidal, and “even the little fool at the announce desk,” which is likely Paul Felder or possibly Jon Anik.
As much as I’d love to see Jon Anik make his anticipated debut and draw big bucks with McGregor, I don’t think that’s a possibility. The Paul Felder call-out was bizarre, since he isn’t a big name like Nate Diaz.
Now, there are a couple of options for McGregor to fight. He could take the people’s choice and fight Jorge Masvidal, who has ridiculous momentum on his side. There’s also the slim chance he could complete the trilogy with Nate Diaz, but it’s unlikely that McGregor would want to complete it this year. There’s also an outside possibility of McGregor going for Kamaru Usman, but count that out now. There is literally no chance Dana White makes that fight, and anyone calling for that fight should be ashamed of themselves.
But Dana White has raised the possibility that infuriates most hardcore MMA fans: a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov. It’s no secret that Dana White wants to recreate the financial success of the first fight between Khabib and McGregor. Unfortunately, there’s two problems with this possibility. First, Khabib still has to fight Tony Ferguson. If Khabib loses, that would make this a more acceptable fight, but it’s doubtful Dana White would want the fight to occur without the title. The other issue is that Conor McGregor would once again jump over worthy contenders, such as Justin Gaethje.
Of course, McGregor could just fight Gaethje, who currently does not have an opponent at any upcoming UFC events. Logically, if Conor McGregor wanted to earn a lightweight title shot he would take a fight with Gaethje. However, Gaethje isn’t the biggest name in the world. Neither is Donald Cerrone, but Cerrone owns a plethora of UFC records, which Gaethje does not. And with Dana White openly talking about making a rematch between Khabib and Conor, why would Conor take the risk of fighting Gaethje?
McGregor stated that he felt comfortable fighting at welterweight and wants to go for the gold at some point. In my opinion, there are only two fights that really make sense for McGregor. The trilogy fight against Nate Diaz or a showdown with the BMF champion Jorge Masvidal.
The trilogy fight is unlikely for a few reasons. Nate Diaz has a history of inactivity, notably going three years without fighting after the second fight between him and McGregor. Diaz is also coming off of a loss to Jorge Masvidal. While the stoppage was due to the doctor’s decision, Diaz was getting pummeled by Masvidal. Diaz would need a win or two to build up his stock again. Also, the trilogy fight will always be a possibility until McGregor or Diaz retires. There is no need to rush it, because there may be a time when McGregor needs a win and a high profile opponent to sell the fight. And that would be the perfect time for McGregor-Diaz III.
However, McGregor doesn’t need a win. He doesn’t need a title shot yet. McGregor needs to face the man who has resurrected his career in the past year and became a sensation. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is who most fans want to see McGregor face.
This fight makes sense for so many reasons. The face of MMA for the past decade against the man with the fastest knockout in UFC history. Masvidal’s brand exploded in 2019, after his brutal knockouts of Darren Till and Ben Askren before dominating Nate Diaz. Masvidal entered 2019 perceived as a journeyman who specialized in split decision fights. He ended 2019 as arguably the biggest star in the welterweight division.
Since McGregor’s comeback fight was announced as a welterweight bout, it felt obvious that they would be on a collision course. It feels perfect. Masvidal could capitalize on his momentum and popularity before fighting Usman, whose skill set would be much less friendly to Masvidal. McGregor could have a massive money-making main event without undercutting more deserving contenders. And considering how both of their most recent fights went, they could fight as soon as Dana White needs them to.
In a perfect world, McGregor would fight Masvidal. Kamaru Usman could recover from his injuries and fight the winner of McGregor/Masvidal (or Leon Edwards if he defeats Tyron Woodley in London). Justin Gaethje would fight the winner of Khabib/Ferguson. At the moment, the head honcho of the UFC wants Khabib/Conor II, but his opinion has changed many times before. Hopefully, he comes to his senses and makes the fight everyone wants.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org