With McGregor revealing that he has just two fights left on his UFC deal, we take a look at who could be sharing the Octagon with the Irishman.
Nate Diaz III
When McGregor got his hand raised at the end of an epic rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202 it seemed inconceivable that the two biggest stars in the sport would not soon meet for a rubber match inside the Octagon.
And yet, more than five years have passed since McGregor’s historic win at the T-Mobile arena in 2016 with the pair still yet to settle the score with a trilogy fight that would headline any UFC event.
So, what gives? After all, it’s not like McGregor and Diaz have forged a deep friendship in the intervening years. If anything, the pair have continued their rivalry, albeit trading heated tweets rather than heavy punches.
However, McGregor has maintained that he would love to face Diaz again, and with his career trajectory as of late there seems to be no better time than now. Although the UFC Lightweight Championship may be outside of his grasp, at least in an immediate sense, a win over a fan-favourite like Diaz would be a perfect way for the Notorious to settle some unfinished business and start his march towards title contention once more.
Remember when we literally just said it is unlikely that his recent performances inside the Octagon will earn McGregor a title shot? Well, when it comes to the biggest star in the history of the sport, rules are made to be broken.
Should Oliveira succeed in doing what Conor has failed to do in his previous two outings and defeat Dustin Poirier in December to retain the UFC Lightweight Championship, do not be surprised if a returning McGregor could fight for the belt on his return, currently slated for Summer 2022.
Though the Brazilian has looked incredible as of late, his over willingness to engage with opponents on the feet, and habit of finding himself in extremely compromised positions during fights could prove to be game-changing against a finisher as dangerous as McGregor.
While this matchup may be the most unlikely featured on this list at first glance, McGregor holding UFC gold is good business for the promotion and do not be surprised if Dana White attempts to capitalise on a stylistically favourable fight.
After finally making his long-awaited UFC debut in 2020 after years of establishing himself as one of the premier talents outside of MMA’s largest promotion, Michael Chandler has been nothing but exciting. In just three Octagon appearances, the American has KO’d a top ten contender in the first round, came agonisingly close to defeating the current UFC champion, and, most recently, had an all-time-great war with a fellow purveyor of violence Justin Gaethje.
With that in mind, it is not hard to get excited just thinking of the possibility of McGregor facing off against Chandler.
Though Chandler possesses an insane wrestling pedigree, having earned All American status during his time at the University of Missouri, the former Bellator champion rarely utilises his grappling in fights, rather choosing to rely on his explosive striking, a trait that will likely lead to instant fireworks against a fast-starting knockout artist like McGregor.
Chandler also is clearly in favour of facing off against the Notorious one. After his fight with Gaethje at UFC 268, Chandler tweeted a mock-up of the pair facing off with Conor replying that he is down to fight Chandler “at some stage for sure.”
After a middling UFC career that often left fans frustrated with a perceived failure to live up to his enormous potential, Jorge Masvidal completely redefined himself as a fighter in 2019 earning stoppage wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren, and Nate Diaz to become one of the most recognisable names in the sport, and the UFC’s BMF Champion.
Much like McGregor, fans were not only drawn to Masvidal’s success inside the Octagon but also his larger-than-life persona outside of it. In fact, during the two-time UFC title challenger’s meteoric rise to superstardom, many fans stated that they felt Masvidal was using the same promotional tactics that had made McGregor so popular years earlier.
A pair of losses to the current king of 170lbs Kamaru Usman likely means that Masvidal is out of title contention for the foreseeable future whilst remaining a massive pay per view draw.
As a result, it seems only natural to have two of the UFC’s biggest stars meet in the Octagon. Because while their individual fighting styles are always conducive to creating great fights, it is their personalities that would clash in the lead up to the contest that would have fans the world over glued to their seats should the bout ever take place.
Max Holloway II
Though his wins over Diaz, Eddie Alvarez, and Jose Aldo are now inexorably linked to Conor McGregor’s career, the Irishman’s sophomore UFC appearance in 2013 deserves a lot more credit. Despite suffering a serious knee injury during the fight, McGregor would demonstrate his versatility to win a unanimous decision against a little-known featherweight prospect named Max Holloway.
In the years since Holloway has created a legacy all his own in the UFC’s 145lbs division utilising his expert boxing and frantic pace to win the UFC Featherweight Championship and become recognised as one of the skilled and exciting fights in the sport.
A lot may have changed in the eight years since Holloway and McGregor met on the prelims of a UFC Fight Night card, but both fighters’ ability to go war inside the Octagon has not waned and with Holloway currently awaiting a title shot at featherweight it seems like the perfect time to have two of the most dynamic strikers in the history of the sport do battle once more.
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