Conor McGregor’s spectacular 40-second demolition of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in UFC 246’s main event meant the question of who next for the Irishman came even earlier than expected.
Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Jorge Masvidal, Kamaru Usman and even Khabib Nurmagomedov were all quick to raise their hands as potential next opponents in the moments after McGregor ended a period of more than three years without a win in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Yet McGregor was uncharacteristically vague when plotting the next step in his 2020 rehabilitation season.
With many of his suitors sitting ringside, fans and media expected the Dubliner to pick a fight, as he so often has done in the past.
Instead he was non-committal on who he would face next, offering only: “Any of them can get it.”
What does Dana White think?
UFC president Dana White made his thoughts clear on what should come next.
Russian lightweight champion Nurmagomedov is scheduled to defend his title against long-time top contender Tony Ferguson in Brooklyn in April. White insists that should that fight fall off – it’s been postponed four times previously because of both men suffering injuries – then McGregor would step straight in.
On the possibilities of making McGregor-Nurmagomedov II, White said: “We’re looking at [Marvin] Hagler-[Thomas] Hearns, we’re looking at [Muhammad] Ali-[George] Foreman, Ali-[Joe] Frazier. It’s a massive fight with global appeal. It’s the fight you make, it’s the fight that makes sense. It’s for the 155lb title too.”
There is one stumbling block. Ferguson is fit and healthy and preparing for that UFC 249 main event. Plus, running McGregor out at late notice in New York will not go down well with the Las Vegas casinos, who cash in when he competes in Nevada.
McGregor v ‘superstar’ Masvidal huge – Hardy
Perhaps more convenient right now, and arguably even more lucrative, would be a showdown with Masvidal.
Former UFC title contender turned TV analyst Dan Hardy believes, on the back of the American’s 2019 campaign, Masvidal v McGregor is the fight to make next, and would become the biggest match-up in the history of the sport.
“Jorge is a superstar right now. He and Conor know what it takes to sell a fight,” Hardy said.
“They would pull in huge numbers. After looking as sharp as he did here against ‘Cowboy’, why would Conor move back down to 155lb? He’s already won that title anyway.”
McGregor v Diaz III?
As mixed martial arts’ (MMA) biggest payday, McGregor will select his next foe.
But his reluctance to pick out a face in the crowd after the Las Vegas fight could indicate another non-title match-up next, as he takes a more patient approach to establishing himself as a true 170lb contender.
That brings names like Nate Diaz and Rafael dos Anjos into the conversation, as two lower-ranked welterweights with previous contact with McGregor.
A third fight with American Diaz would be relatively straightforward to make and could almost ensure he gets much-needed rounds in the bank before taking on the division’s established champions.
Whichever way McGregor turns, you can be sure he will be out again soon.
MMA fans only hope his immediate future is contained to the octagon.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport