Conor McGregor was back with a bang at UFC 246 but who is next after Donald Cerrone lasted just 40 seconds against the Irishman?
If you blinked there is every chance you may have missed Conor McGregor’s clinical and devastating return at UFC 246.
The Irishman only needed 40 seconds to defeat MMA legend Donald Cerrone in Las Vegas on Saturday in what was his first bout in the Octagon for 15 months.
Many had predicted a McGregor victory, just maybe not the swift nature of it, and more difficult challenges lie in wait for the 31-year-old.
So just who is next for McGregor? We take a look at six possibilities.
The return is complete. pic.twitter.com/qBIvVFnpxq
— UFC (@ufc) January 19, 2020
A man, like McGregor, whose verbal skills match his technical ability. After a stellar 2019, which brought victories over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz, Jorge Masvidal has frequently tried to catch McGregor’s attention, even going as far as to wear the same Versace robe the Irishman donned for his 2017 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr when in attendance for the Cerrone bout. While ‘the Notorious’ laughed off that attempt to get under his skin, he once again conceded the prospect of facing Masvidal for the UFC’s BMF belt is an interesting one.
It seems unlikely a trilogy fight between McGregor and Nate Diaz will take place in the immediate future but who knows in the MMA game? Their first two encounters in 2016, which were split at one apiece, were among the most lucrative in UFC history. After McGregor’s victory over Cerrone, Diaz took to Twitter to call out the event as “fake”, prompting a reply from his long-time foe at a post-victory news conference in which he said: “Let’s go brother, number three. It’s always here, so we are right here Nathan.”
McGregor made history in 2016 by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold belts in two divisions at the same time. After successfully stepping up to 170lbs to defeat Cerrone, the chance to hold a third strap at welterweight is sure to be of interest. The man currently in possession of the prize is Kamaru Usman. McGregor called out the Nigerian-American after his victory over Colby Covington last month and Usman has been unsurprisingly open to the idea. An intriguing sub-plot prior to the Cerrone fight was a series of unsavoury Tweets posted from Usman’s account aimed at McGregor, though he later insisted he was hacked.
There was bad blood in and out of the Octagon when McGregor and unbeaten lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov first waged war in October 2018. On that occasion, Khabib submitted McGregor before an all-out melee marred the win. McGregor has clamoured for another opportunity, while UFC president Dana White said of the possibility: “It’s the fight you make, it’s the fight that makes sense.” Certainly, there would be plenty of eager eyes on this one.
— UFC (@ufc) January 19, 2020
In the immediate future, it looks as though McGregor still has goals in UFC he wants to accomplish. But prior to beating Cerrone, he made no secret of a desire to win a boxing world title and revealed talks were ongoing to face Filipino great Manny Pacquiao. Even at the ripe old age of 41, Pacquiao remains as active as ever and defeated Keith Thurman via a split decision to win the WBA Super welterweight champion last July.
FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR
It was one of the most lucrative fights in history when these two first danced together in a Las Vegas super fight in August 2017. McGregor vowed to avenge his defeat to ‘Money’ if a rematch were to happen, and Mayweather teased the possibility on Instagram when he mocked up a poster that read “Mayweather McGregor 2, 2020”. Addressing that after the fight, McGregor said “that rematch will happen at some stage”. Perhaps this one really is a matter of when, not if.