He once said ‘it’s good to have options’ and following a return to the top of the win column with a gutsy performance against Nate Diaz this past weekend at UFC 202, the featherweight champion, Conor McGregor has plenty. Fighters Only takes a closer look at the three most likely opponents for the ‘Notorious’ brash Irishman.
Eddie Alvarez – 155lb
After defeating José Aldo at UFC 189 last December, McGregor had his eyes set on one goal and on goal only, to become the UFC 155lb and in turn become the first two-weight champion at the same time in UFC history. He got his wish and was scheduled to fight Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196 but well, we all know what happened there. Nate Diaz happened.
While McGregor has been preoccupied and in some ways obsessed with Diaz over the past six months, the lightweight division got shook up as Eddie Alvarez beat RDA this past July. Fans have long wanted to see how McGregor would fair against a fighter with a legitimate wrestling pedigree and salivated over the prospect of seeing him fight Edgar. Well that’s not going to happen any time soon, but Edgar’s teammate Alvarez would certainly pose some similar challenges.
Alvarez himself has been quite vocal on wanting to join the ‘circus’ and make some ‘circus money’ and with no bout scheduled right now the timing couldn’t be better. McGregor’s appetite to become a two-weight UFC champion hasn’t withered and Alvarez, who is a veteran of the sport at 32, would like to cash in. Just get ready for the wrath of UFC lightweight top contenders Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson if this is the move the promotion makes.
FO Odds: 2/1
José Aldo 2 – 145lb
Remember when Conor McGregor made his way through a who’s who of 145lb’ers culminating in a 13 second knockout of Aldo to become the UFC featherweight champion last December? While 2016 may have been the year of the ‘moneyweight’ division, with his rivalry with Diaz at welterweight, but during that time Aldo found some form of his own and beat Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 in a one sided affair to be crowned interim featherweight champion.
It’s a rematch that the media, fans and UFC President Dana White expect to happen. But when it comes to McGregor, well, you just never know what’s going to happen next. In a year when the UFC has promoted rivalries and sequels, this would tick both boxes. It would also put some legitimacy back into the sport as well as McGregor’s own legacy as he has yet to defend the belt. In fact, if you go back to his days in Cage Warriors, he has never defended any of his championships.
Now things are different. Although on the surface relations between McGregor and Dana White seem to be positive, they are both contradicting each other with regards to what happens next. White is adamant McGregor will drop back down to featherweight and unify the 145lb championships with Aldo or risk forfeiting his belt. McGregor on the other hand doesn’t think the promotion will do that in fear of weakening the championship and potentially putting things in to a state of limbo.
While he’s never missed the 145lb weight limit, long term it’s clear 155lb is were he’s best suited. But one las fight at 145lb would certainly silence the critics who have started writing off his rapid KO of Aldo last year as something of a fluke.
FO Odds: 3/1
Nate Diaz 3 – 155lb
Three, that’s the magic number, especially when it comes to money-spinning UFC main events. If it ain’t broke why fix it? McGregor and Diaz have proven to be box office gold producing two blockbuster events in the space of six months with UFC 196 and UFC 202. It’s fair to say both fighters transcend the sport. Interest from the hard-core fans base as well as casual viewers is there. They’re the perfect dance partner for one another and with fighter careers gone in a blink of an eye why not cash in once more and settle this rivalry once and for all?
Following his win over Diaz, McGregor said the third fight would happen but it would be on his terms at lightweight. Diaz said we won’t see him fight in the Octagon again unless it’s the rubber match with McGregor. We were all accepting of the welterweight clash at UFC 196, due to the short notice call up for Diaz however left our heads scratching as the rematch was also held at 170lb. Both Diaz and McGregor are natural 155lb fighters, so if they fight one last time it may prove to be the most competitive fight of the bunch.
With Diaz taking a stubborn stance on waiting for the third fight with Conor it may be wise of the UFC to make this happen – if only to be able to use Diaz as a draw moving forward while the clock is ticking on 31-year-old veteran of 30 pro fights. It’s rare to see a fighter climb the ladder, connect with the common man and bring in as many eyeballs as Diaz does and when that happens you don’t want him to be sitting on the shelf for too long. New owners WME-IMG may also want to start recouping some of that $4 billion they splashed out on the UFC and getting Diaz involved in more PPV headliners would go a long way to helping because he, like McGregor, he moves the proverbial needle.
Fighters Only Odds: 4/1