Who will Conor McGregor fight in his return to the octagon in 2020?
Despite his last year’s loss to the lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and the rise of “The Eagle’s” popularity among UFC fans, there is no doubt Conor McGregor is still “the face of the fight game”.
Since his last fight with Khabib, the Irishman announced his retirement and has been involved in a few controversial scandals. But in his most recent interview on ESPN with Ariel Helwani, McGregor seemed to be very positive about his upcoming return to the UFC at the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.
In fact, we heard that Conor had plans to comeback already in July to face Justin Gaethje. Too bad that fight fell apart because McGregor broke his hand in May so UFC ended up booking Gaethje vs Cowboy bout instead.
There is a lot of of negativity around McGregor out there at the moment but we know how quickly things can change in this game. “The Notorious” still has a massive fan base and his fans (as well as haters) are eager for his UFC return.
So who will be Conor McGregor’s next opponent whether it happens at UFC 245 on December 14 in Las Vegas or at one of the upcoming PPV events at the beginning of 2020?
Current situation in the lightweight division
We have the undefeated champion Khabib who just defended his title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu-Dhabi. From what we heard from Khabib’s manager, “The Eagle” is planning to fight next in March or April of 2020; and according to Khabib himself, he is “80% certain” his next fight will take place either in St. Petersburg or Moscow.
McGregor is interested in a rematch with Nurmagomedov but “The Eagle” made it clear (as he is in position to demand whatever he wants) that Conor won’t get an immediate rematch until he “deserves it”. I’m not sure what “deserves it” means to Khabib but I assume it means that McGregor needs to get at least one win against one of the top contenders out there.
So basically, a rematch between Khabib and McGregor is impossible at this point despite whatever Dana White wants. We should just set Khabib aside and look at more realistic opponents for McGregor’s return fight.
- Justin Gaethje
McGregor vs Gaethje seems like a fight that makes a lot of sense at this point. Especially considering that Conor and Justin already had on-going negotiations to fight earlier this summer.
Gaethje is currently riding a 3-fight winning streak and he is coming off a 1st round TKO win against Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 158. In the official UFC lightweight rankings, Gaethje is #4 right behind Conor McGregor.
Will Conor be willing to fight Gaethje? Most likely so. There is not much of a choice for McGregor if he still wants to get a rematch with Khabib. He has to show up and fight somebody from the top – Ferguson, Poirier or Gaethje. Stylistically, Gaethje is the most favorable matchup for McGregor and getting a win against him will most likely lead to Khabib vs McGregor 2.
Justin has lots of power in his hands, and no question, he is a serious threat to McGregor but let’s not forget “The Notorious’s” counter-striking skills. Conor loves to fight strikers and I can see this bout go the same direction as Poirier vs Gaethje.
- Dustin Poirier
Since his loss to Nurmagomedov at UFC 242, Dustin (#2 in the lightweight rankings) is been calling out to fight Conor McGregor as well as Tony Ferguson. Conor didn’t wait long to respond to Dustin on Twitter.
A rematch bout between McGregor and Poirier is not impossible as “The Diamond” is all about “making it happen” in January 2020. So it all depends on McGregor and who he’ll rather fight Gaethje or Poirier. I would say, McGregor vs Poirier 2 is more interesting for the organization and fans but Dustin is also a tougher matchup for “Mystic Mac”.
- Tony Ferguson
We are all waiting for the UFC to announce Khabib vs Ferguson fight but I wouldn’t be surprised if they book Ferguson vs McGregor bout instead. It sounds crazy but hypothetically this fight makes sense for all parties involved.
For Conor, it’s a chance to get an immediate rematch with Khabib. I mean, if “Mystic Mac” really thinking that he has a chance to beat Khabib in a rematch then he shouldn’t be afraid to take on “El Cucuy” beforehand. If McGregor somehow manages to get a W against Ferguson, Nurmagomedov will have no choice as to fight Conor next (and they’ll set it up in Russia at a huge stadium and sell it as the biggest fight in the UFC history).
For Tony Ferguson, a fight against McGregor makes sense because he’ll get the biggest paycheck of his entire career. Tony isn’t that far from retirement and it will be smart for him to jump on a “money fight” against McGregor if it’s an option. Win or lose, he will make a lot of money.
For the UFC, as I mentioned earlier, Dana White’s main goal is to set up Khabib vs McGregor 2. Its not a coincidence that he always brings up a possibility of a rematch here and there. So how about booking Conor vs Tony first with a winner facing Nurmagomedov next? Sounds like a win-win situation for Dana White, don’t you think?
- BMF champion
We have no idea what UFC’s plan is after the BMF title fight between Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal. I don’t think it was a spontaneous move by UFC and Dana White must have some sort of plan on what’s next after that. Is Conor McGregor part of this plan? I guess we will find out soon after November 2nd but I believe UFC will be more interested in making Khabib vs McGregor 2 happen than a trilogy fight between Conor and Nate Diaz.
As you can see, there are a few very intriguing matchups out there for Conor McGregor’s return UFC fight which will most likely take place at the beginning of 2020 (maybe UFC 246 or UFC 247 at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn?).
Whatever deal is going to be made, we are in for a special show as usual when it involves “The Notorious” Conor McGregor. We should hear big news and announcement of Conor’s next fight very soon, probably at some point in October or November after UFC 244 event.
Are you guys looking forward to McGregor’s return to the octagon?
Who do you think he will face next: Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, a BMF champ Diaz/Masvidal or somebody else? Your opinion and predictions are welcomed in the comments below!