We’re almost two months removed from UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s mildly successful foray into the world of professional boxing.
As the dust starts to settle and people continue on with their non McGregor vs Mayweather filled lives, it’s time to look to the future. After coming up short against arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, what’s next for the Notorious One? Will he return to the octagon to defend his lightweight crown? Or will he pursue a career in the squared circle? Here are 5 potential opponents, Conor McGregor could fight next.
5) Floyd Mayweather
Now don’t get me wrong this is not a fight I, or many people I’ve spoken to have any desire to see again. That however, does not necessarily mean that a rematch between McGregor and Mayweather is completely out of the question. The fight would once again generate massive numbers for all parties involved and Floyd would surely jump at the chance to whoop UFC’s finest one more time for 100 million dollars. After Mayweather tweeted a photo of himself hitting the heavy bag – an indication that he may indeed return to the ring some time soon- Paddy Power made McGregor a 5/4 favourite for the pay per view king’s next bout. The fact that the Notorious One lasted a respectable 9 rounds with Mayweather, and the promise of another monumental payday, may indeed tempt McGregor into a rematch, however this still remains an unlikely next step in McGregor’s ever improving career.
4) Max Holloway
A familiar foe for the Notorious One, a fight with current UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway is unlikely but not impossible. Before McGregor was the cultural icon he is today, he and Holloway fought in August 2013, with the Irishman getting the victory via unanimous decision. Since that fight however, the Hawaiian Holloway has gone on an 11 fight winning streak, and in defeating Jose Aldo at UFC 202 in June, became the new king of the featherweight division. Although it’s unlikely that McGregor will ever fight at featherweight again, the lure of regaining the championship that he never lost may tempt the Notorious One. Make no mistake about it, Holloway would be one of the toughest fights McGregor could choose and the Hawaiian has come on leaps and bounds in the octagon since they first met. Despite this, we still rank a rematch with Max Holloway low on list of McGregor’s next potential opponents.
3) Paulie Malignaggi
An interesting storyline amidst the chaos of McGregor vs Mayweather came in the form of now retired two weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi. “The lovable mouthpiece” as McGregor called him, was embroiled in his own mini feud with the UFC fighter after footage from a sparring session between the two men was leaked online and appeared to show Malignaggi getting knocked to the ground. Malignaggi insisted he was pushed, McGregor obviously thought otherwise, with the two then engaging in a verbal spat just days out from the fight. Should McGregor decide to continue his little venture into the boxing world, a fight with Malignaggi would make a lot of sense. Take nothing away from Malignaggi’s excellent boxing career, but McGregor could look at the Brooklyn native and see a 36 year old fighter far past his prime who almost certainly wouldn’t knock him out, and who, with all due respect, is no Floyd Mayweather. The beef between the two is already there, and as far as boxing matches that’ll draw are concerned, it’s a much safer fight for McGregor than say a fight with Canelo Alvarez. An unlikely option, but not an impossible one.
2) Tony Ferguson
When Tony Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee for the interim Lightweight title at UFC 216, he immediately set his sights on the biggest lottery ticket in Mixed Martial Arts. A title unification fight with Conor McGregor. Regarded as one of the best lightweight fighters in UFC history, Ferguson is on a 10 fight win streak, dating all the way back to October 2013 and El Cucuy may represents the riskiest fight of all the likely options in front of McGregor. Ferguson has one of the most dangerous submission games in the whole of the UFC and at 5’11 with a 76.5 in reach, has all the attributes to pose a massive threat to McGregor should the two meet in a lightweight title decider. One could argue that despite Ferguson’s undeniable skill inside the octagon, he lacks star power and drawing ability, something that McGregor will surely consider when choosing his next move. If McGregor wants his next fight in the UFC to top all that’s come before him, then there can only be one real option.
1) Nate Diaz
As far as fights that make sense go, the Diaz trilogy is about as ideal as it gets for McGregor. Here is a guy that McGregor knows he can beat, a guy he knows can help him sell and a fight, and a guy he knows he can make a hell of a lot of money with. Nate Diaz hasn’t fought since his defeat at the hands of the then featherweight champion in August of 2016 and has reportedly turned down a number of bouts in the last year – a healthy indication that he may be holding out for the trilogy with McGregor. In addition, their first two fights hold both the first and second spot on the most bought Pay-Per- View events in MMA history, making the bout a hugely tempting one for UFC officials to make, in what has been a poor year for the company buy rate wise. There’s also the obvious selling point that this is essentially a dead rubber fight in what’s been one of the best feuds the UFC has ever seen. It’s the biggest fight the company can make, and it’s the most likely next move for Conor McGregor.