UFC: Who will Conor McGregor fight next?

Daniel Cunningham
Conor McGregor, UFC
January 18, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor holds an Irish flag as he celebrates his first round TKO victory against Donald Cerrone following UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

UFC fans all around the world have been pondering the question, “Who is Conor McGregor going to fight next?” The former two-division champion made his triumphant return to action back in January, where he starched fan favorite Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds with a devastating combination of shoulder strikes and a high kick. It was a great way to kick off the year, and Conor made the statement that he would love to fight several times in 2020.

Well, the world encountered a global pandemic that has really thrown a wrench in McGregor’s original plans. It’s becoming clear to me that the UFC was going to have Conor fight the winner of the Tony Ferguson/Khabib Nurmagomedov fight that was originally scheduled for April. That fight, of course, fell through, and Tony Ferguson fought Justin Gaethje instead. Of course, Gaethje spoiled the party by upsetting Ferguson to be crowned Interim Lightweight Champion of the UFC.

Conor McGregor has been extremely active on Twitter, calling out people and saying he is ready to fight. With that in mind, let’s look at four men who could be a possibility for the Notorious one’s next fight.

Nate Diaz

You just had to know that we were starting with this. Imagine a Conor McGregor/Nate Diaz trilogy fight with nobody in the stands on the UFC’s Fight Island. You could hear every word that these two rivals would be saying to each other. To me, this is the fight that makes the most sense from a business perspective for Conor McGregor. It is clear that Conor McGregor would like to get back to UFC gold, but there’s a roadblock at 155. Interim Champ, Justin Gaethje, is currently waiting for his shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Those two are not likely to fight until September, and it’s highly unlikely that McGregor will sit out until the winter to get his shot at the belt. That is where Nate Diaz comes into the equation.

The two rivals have a history, and it needs to be settled once and for all. Nate Diaz shocked the world back in 2016 when he took a fight against Conor McGregor on short notice. After getting touched up early, Diaz found his groove and took it to a tired McGregor. Diaz would go on to submit McGregor in the second round via rear-naked choke. The two immediately ran that fight back a few months later, and it was a back and forth classic. McGregor took that close fight by Majority Decision. With the two fan favorites currently 1-1 in their series, it would just make the most sense to run this one back a third time. There are no easy fights for Conor McGregor right now, but arguably the most winnable option for him would be Nate Diaz. He has the blueprint for beating Nate Diaz, and I think he would if they were to fight a third time. Conor could make the most amount of money in this fight, and it would be another big win for him as he awaits the winner of the Nurmagomedov/Gaethje fight in September.

Jorge Masvidal

Who would not want to see this fight happen? This was the hot fight that everyone was talking about after Conor McGregor stopped Donald Cerrone back in January. Jorge Masvidal was in the front row for that fight wearing a robe that matched the robe Conor McGregor wore in his fight with Floyd Mayweather. Masvidal was coming off of his victory for the BMF Title over Nate Diaz.

Nobody in the sport had a better year in 2019 than Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal knocked out Darren Till in England, knocked Ben Askren out in 5 seconds, then beat Nate Diaz and had The Rock wrap a BMF title around his waist to cap it off. Masvidal has a personality that would sell, and I bet he’d be willing to put that BMF title up for grabs in a fight with Conor McGregor. Masvidal used to fight at 155, so there wouldn’t be a huge size discrepancy between the two men. It’s a tougher fight for Conor than Nate Diaz would be, but it’s another fight that Conor could win. This fight would be a standup war, and one thing people can’t deny is how good Conor McGregor is on his feet. He’s one of the best in the business at gauging the range and timing shots when he’s on top of his game. Not sure if either man would get a finish in this fight, but it would be a fun war to watch.

Justin Gaethje

This would be the most personal of all the options for Conor McGregor. McGregor recently turned to Twitter to call out Gaethje where he mentioned Gaethje’s comments about McGregor’s skills as a father. This is a fight that Conor wants really badly, and it would be a fight that would give him at least some gold if he’s able to win. As mentioned above, Gaethje is currently waiting for his shot against Khabib for the Undisputed Lightweight title. However, there is one factor that could throw everything off. There have been many reports out of Russia on the condition of Khabib’s trainer and father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. Khabib is a very private person when it comes to his family, but one thing that isn’t private is his love for his father. The elder Nurmagomedov is currently battling for his life due to Covid-19. Recent reports have suggested he’s either in a medically induced coma or he’s on life support. With everything going on with his father, I’m not sure Khabib is going to be fighting anytime soon. If that turns out to be the case, you will likely see the UFC move to book Conor McGregor vs Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title.

On paper, this would seem to be a fight that would give Conor McGregor trouble with Gaethje’s ability to wrestle, but that is just not Gaethje’s style, which will play right into Conor McGregor’s hands. Justin Gaethje has insane power, and he’s very fast, but Conor McGregor is not Tony Ferguson when it comes to striking. In a pure striking match, I do not believe Justin Gaethje could beat Conor McGregor unless he knocks him out. I think the diversity of Conor’s striking techniques, along with his ability to time straight counters, would give Gaethje fits throughout the evening. Eddie Alvarez, who fought both men, believes that McGregor would finish Justin Gaethje. Styles make matchups, and this is not a matchup that would excitement as a Gaethje fan unless he said he would mix in his wrestling, which we all know he wouldn’t.

Kamaru Usman

Wouldn’t this be something? Conor McGregor getting a shot to become the first man in UFC history to hold a title in three different weight divisions, would be huge business for the UFC but a nightmare of a fight for Conor McGregor. Khabib Nurmagomedov is a nightmare matchup for Conor McGregor, and it showed in their first fight. To be fair, I don’t believe we saw the best version of Conor McGregor in that fight, but either way, it’s a tough matchup. Kamaru Usman is like Khabib except much bigger and stronger.

This would be one fight where even the die-hard Conor McGregor fans would have to look at it and question the odds. The Nigerian Nightmare would immediately shoot once the opening bell sounded. If he couldn’t take Conor down, he’d likely lean on him by the cage and engage in some dirty boxing. We’ve seen Conor McGregor gas in fights before, and this is a fight that would have the potential to zap his energy exceptionally quickly. I’m not sure there’s a worse matchup for Conor in the UFC right now than Kamaru Usman.

Would it be a huge fight for the legacy of Conor McGregor? Absolutely, because no man has ever held a title in three weight classes, but the mountain he’d have to climb is a steep and tall one. The only way McGregor wins the title in this fight would be to stop Usman early with a clean shot. Does Conor have the pop to take out Usman at 170? There is no question that Conor McGregor is a better striker than Kamaru Usman, but this isn’t a kickboxing match. In the world of MMA, this is a fight I do not like if I’m a Conor McGregor fan.

Who will it be?

Thinking through everything, it still makes the most sense for Conor McGregor to fight Nate Diaz in his next fight. The history is there, and it’s the fight that makes the most sense. Let’s hope and pray that Khabib’s father recovers so his life can get back to normal and as fight fans we get to see the Nurmagomedov/Gaethje fight in September. If Conor can beat Nate Diaz, he can turn his attention to the winner of the September title fight. Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal need to fight for the 170-pound title. It’s the fight that makes the most sense at that weight class, and it’s a fight that needs to happen. If Conor McGregor is able to capture the 155-pound title before 2021, the UFC could then turn their attention to doing a champion versus champion fight in Q1 of 2021 with Conor McGregor facing off against whoever is the welterweight champion.