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The Debate – Who Should Conor McGregor Fight Next?

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Conor McGregor two belts

With a laser-guided left hand and a gorgeous combination to finish the job, Conor McGregor made history last Saturday at UFC 205.

The Irish megastar had stated at the beginning of the year that he would become a two-weight champion and while it came a little later than he had expected, ‘The Notorious One’ now holds both the UFC lightweight and featherweight titles in his grasp.

With McGregor now firmly sitting atop of the MMA world and a slew of contenders beneath him, the MMALatestNews team have decided to take a hold of the reigns on Conor McGregor’s career and make their case for who should be next up for Dublin’s favourite son:

The case for Khabib Nurmagomedov, by Tony Sisombath (@Trigga_MMA)

Conor McGregor solidified his spot in the UFC Hall of Fame when he defeated Eddie Alvarez, becoming the first, and only dual-weight champion in UFC history. Now if McGregor wants to be known as the greatest of all time (GOAT), he has to defend his belts.

Khabib Nurmagomedov is the perfect opponent for McGregor’s first title defense. Nurmagomedov is undefeated, and currently has the longest win streak in all of mixed martial arts today (24).

Stylistically, this is what people want to see. One of the world’s most talented strikers (McGregor) versus one of the most dominant grapplers (Nurmagomedov). So far in his MMA career, we have only seen McGregor struggle in two areas: grappling and maybe cardio. What is Nurmagomedov great at? Pushing the pace, taking his opponents down, and smashing them with vicious ground and pound. If Conor McGregor wants to silence more of his “haters”, he will have to prove them wrong once again.

Not only stylistically is it an intriguing fight, but the verbal jabs already thrown at each other make it exciting. Conor McGregor is no stranger when it comes to trash talk. He is the best there is when it comes to it. That did not stop Khabib Nurmagomedov from putting his two cents in though.

“Your guy, beginning of year, tapped like chicken!”

“Irish, only 6 million, Russia, 150 million.”

You can hype it up, promote it for a bigger national market to the UFC, and sell the fight for millions of buys.

Aside from the style versus style and the trash talk, Khabib Nurmagomedov is truly the number one contender. Yes, Tony Ferguson is coming off a decision win over Rafael Dos Anjos, but Nurmagomedov is coming off a more dominant performance over Michael Johnson, where he finished the fight. Michael Johnson is also the last person to beat Ferguson in a fight.

To make it more simple, 24 fight win streak; 9 fight win streak; anything else.

The case for Tony Ferguson, by Graeme Harper (@GraemeHarp)

If you’re looking for one man to step into the Octagon with Conor McGregor next, look no further than Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson.

First and foremost, his current in-ring resume is simply the most deserving on the long list of contenders. Riding the longest winning streak that the UFC’s lightweight division has ever seen and with his nine-fight stretch coming in the most competitive division in all of MMA, there’s simply no looking past Ferguson.

Since starting his ridiculous run in 2013, Ferguson has finished six of his nine opponents with his last five fights all earning himself a post-fight bonus from the UFC brass. He has submitted both Abel Trujillo and Gleison Tibau, an achievement that eluded Nurmagomedov in his fights with the pair. He has submitted the number five ranked Edson Barboza as well as one of lightweight’s hottest prospects in ‘Groovy’ Lando Vannata. Most recently, he put on an inimitable pace for five rounds against the former champ Rafael dos Anjos at altitude.

Stylistically, a match-up between Ferguson and McGregor would be every fight fans dream. Both men have an unflappable approach in the cage, are as tough as old boots and the strikes from both men would be coming from so many angles, you wouldn’t know where to look. If you want to really test Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson’s physical advantages are a sure fire way to give McGregor problems and his own ‘flowy’ style makes you wonder whether he’s just created a new technique on the spot – and that’s all without even mentioning his grappling style.

Taking a step outside of the cage, Ferguson also has the much-needed skills in the art of promotion. He boasts the charisma and unique personality to sell a fight with McGregor and he’d be one of the few people who could keep up with the brass Irishman on the mic in the build-up.

It’s no secret that Conor McGregor doesn’t see much value in facing Aldo once more and a move up to welterweight doesn’t make sense when he’s already holding two belts. The two weight champ needs to defend one of his belts next and Tony Ferguson is the only man who can match Conor McGregor every step of the way.

The case for Nate Diaz, by Stephen Rivers (@stephenjrivers)

The man Conor McGregor should face next is Nate Diaz, and barring the possibility of meeting a bigger name like Georges St-Pierre or big Brother Nick, I don’t even think it’s a tough decision to make.

The first installment of McGregor vs. Diaz did a reported 1.6m pay-per-view buys, a figure they had got nowhere near since UFC 100 in 2009. McGregor vs. Diaz 2 topped it with 1.65m. Financially this is a trilogy that has to be completed, and there are a tonne of other reasons for that too.

Diaz is the only fighter who has beaten McGregor in his UFC run. Hell, there are people who think he actually won the second fight too. That alone gives him a strong claim for a title shot. Moving the fight back down to lightweight with a belt on the line is the extra spice to help the UFC smash their pay-per-view record once again, something White says they may have done with UFC 205. People can speculate as to whether Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson might be capable of beating McGregor, but we know Diaz can, because he has.

And really is there any reason for outrage if one of those other guys doesn’t get the shot? Given his constant injury problems, can you invest the sort of money that the UFC does when they promote a Conor McGregor led event, hoping that Khabib actually stays healthy? Don’t even get me started on Jose Aldo, who has caused them the same problems year upon year, and has done nothing but berate the company for months now. Why should he be rewarded for that with the kind of stellar payday that only fighting McGregor can bring a Brazilian with no drawing power in the United States? Ferguson couldn’t even be bothered to call McGregor out after his career best win over Rafael dos Anjos, and I’m supposed to feel bad for him if he has to wait?

McGregor’s UFC run has been about making money and making history. Defeating Khabib, Aldo, Ferguson, or some other lightweight contender only does one of those things, and it still makes less money than a third bout with Diaz. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz has been MMA’s hottest feud since, well, possibly ever? The numbers don’t lie. It gave us two thrilling fights. It gave us the “touch butt in the park” quote of the year. It set everything up perfectly for a third fight between two personalities that ignited something fans loved, and remains unfinished.

The case for Jose Aldo, by Brice Schroeder (@BriceJSchroeder)

Conor McGregor’s historic win at UFC 205 opened up a plethora of options for his next opponent, but I believe Jose Aldo is the most deserving of that fight.

Prior to Aldo’s loss to McGregor at UFC 194, Aldo was universally regarded as a top three pound for pound fighter in the world. He boasted a fight record that included nine title defenses, an eighteen fight win streak littered with some of the biggest names in the sport, and six post-fight performance bonuses. Any other champion with that resume would be given an immediate title shot no questions asked. Instead, McGregor took a break from the featherweight division to split a pair of fights with a fighter with a 13-8 UFC record (Nate Diaz) before winning his second belt against a champion who had yet defended his belt either.

During McGregor’s continued sabbatical the UFC booked an interim featherweight championship between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. Aldo showed he was recovered from his ego shattering loss to McGregor by controlling the fight against Edgar en route to a fairly easy decision victory at UFC 200.

I understand why it was hard to book Aldo in an immediate rematch with Conor. Conor landed one of the most beautiful punches in UFC history just thirteen seconds into their fight that floored Aldo. No one knew what Aldo would be after that devastating loss, but in his fight at UFC 200 he showed no lingering effects from that knockout. In his loss to McGregor, Aldo let his emotions get the better of him. He rushed the Irishman as soon as the bell sounded which is such a removal from any of his fights during his title reign. In a rematch I believe Aldo would be much more competitive and would keep his emotions in check. We have seen great fighters get knocked out and comeback to win the rematch, most notably Georges St. Pierre against Matt Serra.

Aldo did more than enough in his time as champion to earn his chance at redemption.

An old saying in combat sports states you are not truly the champion until you have defended your belt. Conor should move back to his original weight class and defend the featherweight belt if he wants to truly be considered a two division champ. I believe a title defense has to be made at least once and if he ever plans on defending that 145 pound belt he carries around, it must be against the current interim champion, Jose Aldo.

I personally believe Conor will never fight at featherweight ever again. If that indeed is the case, I still see an avenue where Aldo may get a chance at that rematch. If he is able to defend his interim featherweight title a few times, this would set up an epic champion vs. champion super fight if Conor is still in possession of the 155 pound belt. Aldo has mulled over a jump to lightweight several times in the past and a chance at revenge may be the prize that entices Aldo to finally make that move.

The case for Georges St-Pierre, by Ralph Welch (@ralphwelchmma)

Conor McGregor has climbed the mountain. He’s made history. Redefined our expectations of what a star is in MMA. We are in new territory here and the old rules about how/when you defend a title no longer apply.

The titles are nice trinkets but the name McGregor is what carries weight in the UFC. When Conor sits down to decide his next move he’s going to want someone who can do their share of the heavy lifting. He’s already planning an exit strategy from the sport. Therefore, every fight needs to be special. There’s no space for run-of-the-mill title defences.

He’s now the king of lightweight and featherweight. There’s really only one moniker that eludes him: The King of Pay-Per-View. A fight against a returning Georges St-Pierre would be a dream clash between the UFC’s biggest stars of all time. It’s a legacy-defining fight for both men. A clash between the old and the new. And it’s exactly the sort of spectacular that fits the new UFC owners’ business strategy.

Put McGregor in the octagon with Georges St-Pierre and it would be the sort of financial and showbusiness extravaganza that would really announce the new era of UFC.

It might sound unlikely. Especially given the state of GSP’s current relationship with the UFC brass.

But if it makes dollars – and this makes millions upon millions of them – then in this sport, it makes perfect sense.

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Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor has ‘Every intention of fighting in 2018’

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Despite being inactive since his historic boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August, Conor McGregor is never far from the headlines. Recently his out of cage antics have got people questioning if he’ll ever be back.

Thankfully the UFC lightweight champion appears to have cleared up any rumors about his fighting career.

Speaking to his sponsor Betsafe, the “Notorious” Conor McGregor said “My focus is getting back into the right ring or octagon. 2017 was historic. I have transcended both the sport of MMA and boxing. At this stage of my career, as it has been for the majority of my UFC career, potential opponents must lobby for fights with me. We could see Conor McGregor anywhere. I run the fight game, the fashion game, the whiskey game or whatever the next business endeavor might be”.

McGregor added, “I have every intention of fighting in 2018 if my compensation and business development endeavors accurately reflect my influence on combat sports.”

This comes just two weeks after UFC President Dana White told reporters “Conor might never fight again. The guy’s got $100 (expletive) million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working.”

White went on to say “Try to get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank. Money changes everything with a lot of people.”

White also told reporters that the “Notorious one”, “can’t be paid enough money” and that he is “worth every penny and more.” McGregor’s recent statement suggests he knows that and won’t be back till his demands are met.

The UFC lightweight division has been stalled in the absence of the champion McGregor and now the interim champion Tony Ferguson has undergone surgery. The UFC has been known the remove belts from fighters who have been delayed for extended amounts of time, this would be highly unlikely with the popularity of McGregor.

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Will Conor McGregor ever fight again?

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The future of the UFC’s biggest ever star is in doubt. But it was also never a secret. “The Notorious” Conor McGregor always made his intentions clear, “Get in. Get rich. Get out”. And now he’s rich, very rich.

In 2008 at the age of 20 a baby-faced, clean-shaven McGregor stated his ambitions for his MMA career after just 5 professional fights. He said “My dream is to be world champion in the UFC, have more money than I know what to do with, and have a great life for my kids, my grandkids, everyone in my family, everyone that’s come up with me. That’s my dream”.

Along his journey, McGregor has never kept his intentions to himself. At first, it was to get into the UFC. Then it was the featherweight belt. Then it was to replicate what he had done in his previous promotion, to become the UFC’s first simultaneous two-weight world champion.

The issue now is that McGregor has achieved everything he has set out to do. From world titles to being a multi-millionaire, he’s done it all. And now there is no statement of intent. No dream to chase.

Since he’s achieved everything he said he ever wanted, where does the hunger for more come from? Currently, it doesn’t appear to be there.

Since the last time we saw McGregor with gloves on, the charismatic Irishman has seemingly gone off the rails. There was the Bellator 187 incident in Dublin, where McGregor stormed the cage and pushed veteran referee Marc Goddard and slapped an official. But more recently the Irish Daily Mail has reported that McGregor was involved in a bar fight in his native Crumlin, where he is believed to have punched an associate of a major crime gang in Dublin. Whether this is true or not, it is still something a UFC champion and role model shouldn’t be associated with.

From the outside, McGregor’s life is more about hours spent at the club rather than the gym.

But who can blame the man for enjoying the fruits of his labor? He is acting how most 29-year-old men would if they had just received $100 million.

This is his life’s work paying off.

After McGregor’s loss at UFC 196, he wanted an immediate rematch against Nate Diaz at the same weight. It showed us he’s a true martial artist with the heart of a lion. It showed his desperation to get that win back and prove he is the better competitor. And when he won, he proved all his doubters wrong as he walked on crutches through the corridor of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas screaming “doubt me now”.

But after his loss to Mayweather Jr., there has seemingly been no desire to arrange a fight to get back in the win column.

It’s easy to forget during this period of inactivity that McGregor is one of the most active guys in MMA. From UFC 194 to UFC 205, McGregor competed in 4 fights at 3 different weight classes against high caliber opponents inside the space of 11 months. The truth is he deserves a well-earned rest.

 

Conor McGregor UFC 205

However, in a recent media scrum, Dana White confirmed that Conor was looking to fight before the end of the year but had been pulled from UFC 219 as punishment for the incident at Bellator 187.

Dana also told the reporters in the room “Conor might never fight again. The guys got $100 million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working”.

White also said, “Try and get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank”.

The two statements from Dana are very contradicting as he isn’t sure McGregor will ever fight again, but at the same time he wanted to fight on December 30th. Maybe Dana is struggling to pick apart the mind of Conor McGregor as much as we are.

There are plenty of reasons why Conor should never come back.

Not only is he set for life but he’s also healthy. McGregor is extremely conscious about his health and has mentioned several times throughout his career about the importance of keeping your brain healthy.

But there are plenty of reasons why he should he come back.

He loves to fight and he loves making money. He needs to capitalize on that whilst he can.

McGregor doesn’t have to settle for one big payday, he has matchups waiting for him such as Ferguson, Diaz, and GSP. There is always the welterweight belt and his Croke Park dream. And the door is open for a return to boxing, especially with fighters like De La Hoya, Pacquiao, and Malignaggi calling him out.

He’s also at the peak in terms of age and physique and in terms of power. Where he has the whole MMA world on strings with every small move he makes.

There is no knowing if McGregor will ever fight again. If McGregor returns to his usual self, he will likely be back in the first quarter of 2018, where he will fight frequently. But as time ticks on and there is no fight announcement McGregor may be stripped of his belt never to be seen again.

He got in. He got rich. Is he out? Let us know.

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Manny Pacquiao Hints at Possible 2018 Fight with Conor McGregor

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Here we go again. Just when we thought Conor McGregor was set on a return to the octagon, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has seemingly called out the charismatic Irishman with his latest Instagram post.

It appears the current senator of the Philippines also wants a trip on the money train that is Conor McGregor, as he sent out this cryptic message on his Instagram.

Happy Thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma

A post shared by Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) on

The caption reads “Happy thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma”.

This comes a week after retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya claimed he has been secretly training for a bout with “The Notorious One.” Speaking on ‘Golden Boy Radio with Tattoo and the Crew’, De La Hoya claimed “I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor out in two rounds”.

After his most recent loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, retirement looked imminent for ‘Pac-Man’. But a shot at McGregor and the pay day his name brings, appears to be far too tempting.

McGregor loves to test himself and he loves money. So he will be licking his lips just thinking about the opportunity to get back in the ring against a high calibre opponent like Pacquiao. Not just to make money, but to prove his doubters wrong after his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

McGregor’s immediate future looks set to be a fight with Tony Ferguson in 2018. But after that who knows what the future holds for the UFC lightweight champion.

If McGregor’s next fight is a boxing match with Pacquiao, then it could spell the end of his title reign. As Ferguson likes to say it’s ‘defend or vacate’ time.

 

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