Now he’s got the UFC lightweight championship belt over one shoulder and featherweight strap over the other, who is next for two weight champion Conor McGregor?
He once famously said it’s good to have options and now he sits atop of both the of UFC’s lightweight and featherweight division’s, FO looks at the lay of the land and have come up with the three fights that make the most sense.
McGregor vs. Jose Aldo 2
Who doesn’t like a rematch? Since knocking out Aldo in just 13 seconds last December to claim his first UFC championship, McGregor hasn’t fought at 145lb. He had a detour at welterweight in two classic fights with Nate Diaz and this past weekend fought and beat Eddie Alvarez in New York City to become UFC 155lb champion too.
During this time Aldo bounced back from his first and only UFC loss to defeat Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 and become the interim UFC featherweight champion. Having been promised a rematch with McGregor to no avail, Aldo was at odds with the promotion but he seems to have backtracked on retirement talk.
It seemed unlikely McGregor would ever return to featherweight, however, SBG Ireland head coach John Kavanagh revealed Conor was lighter coming into his fight with Alvarez than he was for the Aldo fight. Now working with renowned nutritionist George Lockhart, the weight-cut wizard utilized by an array of the UFC’s biggest stars, and given the new early weigh-in protocol that allows fighters longer to rehydrate, if the UFC book McGregor vs. Aldo 2, we may well be at 145lb.
Another option would be Aldo moving up to lightweight in a bid to get revenge for the one career loss that looks destined to haunt him forever. During his halcyon days as champion he often spoke about moving to 155lb anyway and so a rematch is perhaps far closer than some could imagine.
McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Following his dominant third round submission victory over Michael Johnson at UFC 205, where Khabib Nurmagomedov notched up his 24th straight victory, it’s now undeniable and universally agreed that the Russian is the leading contender for the lightweight crown.
Now seemingly over his injury woes, Khabib has fought back to back in 2016 and looks to be razor sharp both inside the Octagon and on the mic. Following his win over Johnson, he had some harsh words for McGregor.
“What do you think?” Nurmagomedov asked. “Do you think I deserve (a title shot)? It’s like, we don’t know, maybe. What are you talking about? Like if Conor makes a different decision? This is number one bullsh*t. I think the Irish fans understand who deserves this. I think I have a lot of Irish fans too because I dominate all my opponents.
“Conor comes to lightweight and talks about, ‘I’m the greatest.’ But you guys know at the beginning of the year he tapped like a chicken, and at the end of the year, he fights for the title. It’s very interesting. I don’t understand.”
While it’s fair to give Tony Ferguson an honourable mention as he is also right up there on top of the 155lb shark tank, Nurmagomedov made the most of his post-fight opportunities on the mic and that’s just as important as in cage performances. Prior to the UFC 205 weight-ins, he also clashed with McGregor backstage so when you take meritocracy and couple that with a rivalry that seems to be brewing with every encounter, that’s box office gold.
McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3
The outsider and the spanner in the works. Taking meritocracy and throwing that out of the window, your left with box office and while McGregor doesn’t specifically need or require any of his opponents to put much promotional hustle and muscle into the media obligations, when he does get the right opponent, like Nate Diaz, the sky is literally the limit.
Following his win over Nate at UFC 202, McGregor famously said he wouldn’t be done with the Stockton bad boy and predicted the two would fight again in the future. Since the loss to McGregor, Diaz has kept a relatively low profile and is seemingly only interested in a return to the Octagon if it’s to end this series of fights, currently level 1-1 with the two weight UFC champion.
Having fought at welterweight twice, it’s widely believed both Diaz and McGregor fight at their best when at 155lb. With McGregor now holding the lightweight championship, the UFC have an opportunity to set up the trilogy fight for the lightweight title where, whatever the outcome, that title would stay on the shoulders of a highly promotable fighter who moves the needle.
And the perfect pay-per-view event is just around the corner. UFC last week rolled out their Q1 schedule of events and the one that raised eyebrows was UFC 209, which is set to go down at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, on February 11th. Being able to leverage the Stockton, California area code into a promotional angle for the trilogy fight between McGregor and Diaz just seems too good to be true. But it’s there.