Who is McGregor’s next challenger?

Connor McGregor beats Cerrone, but who's next?

Jackson Meyer, Reporter

The notorious one is back. In 2018 at UFC 229, many fans watched Conor McGregor fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, in a grudge match that brought in outrageous numbers in terms of pay-per-view buys for the company. This also meant that millions around the world watched as Nurmagomedov destroyed the notorious one, constantly using his wrestling background to dominate McGregor on the ground and against the cage throughout the fight. The fight ended after Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor with a chokehold, three minutes and three seconds into the 4th round. But the story wasn’t just the fight, but more so what ensued after. Both of the fighters’ teams had to be restrained after a massive brawl occurred where Nurmagomedov jumped the fence to attack McGregor after the fight. Due to the shenanigans that took place with millions watching worldwide, UFC president Dana White often mentioned that it was possible McGregor may never fight for the promotion again. But, luckily this was not true as on Jan. 18, 2020, at UFC 246, McGregor defeated Donald Cerrone by knockout, 40 seconds into the first round in an absolutely dominant win.

McGregor came out swinging as the fight started. McGregor ran towards Cerrone, attempting a massive left hook that did not connect. But while he had missed the strike, his knee had connected with Cerrone’s nose and rocked him. Cerrone instantly went into a clinch to try and regain his composure. But unexpectedly, McGregor had a trick in his sleeve that no UFC fan has ever witnessed before. While in the clinch, McGregor started to jump up and nail Cerrone with constant shoulder strikes that busted Cerrone’s nose badly and instantly put Cerrone into a state of panic, knowing that he was out of it. Cerrone backed out of the clinch in an attempt to get a breather and try to gain back slight consciousness. Unfortunately, McGregor hit Cerrone with a nasty uppercut and connected with a head kick that was heard around the arena. The kick sent Cerrone stumbling back towards the cage. McGregor then repeatedly hit Cerrone with constant left hands that knocked down his opponent and then proceeded to hammer him with left and rights on the ground that gave referee, Herb Dean, no choice but to call the fight.

It was a dominating performance nonetheless and McGregor made it clear that he was back and potentially better than ever. The notorious one now sits at a 22-4 record and has seemed to find his home at the welterweight division. After the fight, McGregor spoke with Joe Rogan and made it clear that he was in love with the division and was ready to fight again. “I like this weight division. Every one of these little mouth fools can get it!” said McGregor. Now that McGregor seems to have a good relationship with Dana White, I think it’s a safe assumption to make that he will be fighting again in the future. This fight could happen sooner than later as well, considering that his fight lasted 40 seconds and he was barely even touched. Now the question presents itself, who is next for the notorious one? I believe that there are 3 candidates, in no specific order, that could challenge McGregor and present a high-level fight that would be worth watching.

1. The first fighter that would be a great option to fight against McGregor would be none other than Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal attended the McGregor fight at UFC 246 recently in January of 2020 and even slightly mocked the Irishman by wearing a robe that McGregor had previously worn in the past. Masvidal currently sits at 35-13 in his professional career and holds a 3 fight win streak with a recent win in November of 2019 against Nate Diaz, at UFC 244. Masvidal has a great stand up game and currently holds the record for the fastest knockout in UFC history, after defeating Ben Askren in 5 seconds after a vicious flying knee. Masvidal has voiced his eagerness to fight McGregor after he appeared on the Rich Eisen show and said this: “I see the square root of his face, times my knuckles.” After defeating Diaz, Masvidal has the momentum and wants McGregor. If I were White, this may be the safe route to go, for this is a fight that would interest many.

2. McGregor’s second candidate may come to the surprise of many and this would be a 3rd fight with Masvidal’s recent opponent, Nate Diaz. McGregor and Diaz have a lot of beef that hasn’t seemed to settle over the years and even now, Diaz was taking shots at the notorious one at the end of his fight, calling the fight weak on Twitter. Right now, out of the 2 fights that they have had against each other, the score is settled at 1-1. In the first fight, Diaz beat McGregor in 2016 at UFC 196 in March, after a 2nd round submission that forced McGregor to tap out to the surprise of many. In their second bout, however, McGregor defeated Diaz by unanimous decision at UFC 202 in August that same year, after a hard-fought, five-round fight. The third fight between them has been something that fans have been hoping for, for nearly four years and now would be a good time to have it. Diaz is arguably nearing the end of his career, so if White wants to make this fight possible it better be sooner or later. After all, the fight would make sense considering that they have each won a fight against each other and they might want to settle the score. This would be a move that White will make if he really wants to pull in massive numbers and make a ton of money. The two fighters have lots of bad blood for each other and it’s nearly guaranteed that both would do a terrific job at promoting the fight.

3. The third decision is a tough one as there are easily more than 3 candidates that could challenge McGregor, but after all, this is a list of the best candidates and I believe that the 3rd best would be Kamaru Usman. Usman currently sits at a professional fight record of 16-1 and is currently having constant arguments with the likes of Masvidal and McGregor. But if Usman is smart, he would rather fight McGregor. Masvidal may be a great fighter and he may be on a tear right now, but in reality, a fight with McGregor would make Usman way more money and it would bring in lots of viewers, which makes White a very happy man. Usman recently went on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and has voiced his thoughts on McGregor. “The only reason we’re even talking about Conor is that he came out and said he wanted my belt,” Usman said. “I don’t give a crap about Conor. He’s been tapped at 145, 155, and 170, I don’t really care.” Now what Usman is saying here is that Conor has won 2 titles in the respective featherweight and lightweight divisions each and is looking to win a title in a 3rd division (the middleweight division) which nobody has ever done before. Usman also explained why it would be a good fight for him. “Arguably, it would be one of the biggest fights ever because he’s trying to make history.” As mentioned before, Usman has hard feelings towards Masvidal after a few altercations had recently broken  out between the two, but on the Joe Rogan podcast, it seemed as if Usman believes the fight with McGregor is the right move. “At some point, we just look at it and it actually makes more sense. Obviously, Masvidal has done his thing at welterweight but he has not even beaten anybody in the top 5.” Usman offers a great challenge for he has only lost one professional fight, so it will be really interesting to see if McGregor decides whether or not he wants to attempt making history in the promotion.

I believe that all of these guys could bring in great ratings and lots of cash, so really these are all moves that can’t do any wrong. If I was McGregor, I would personally try and make the Usman fight possible because if he can make history by winning 3 belts in 3 different divisions, he might submit himself as a legend in the business.