Conor McGregor holds both his featherweight and lightweight title belts (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)
Former two-division champ, Conor “The Notorious” McGregor’s next fight should be in the welterweight division. As speculation rises, what are his options for his summer comeback?
McGregor weighs in at lightweight (Getty Images)
After Justin Gaethje defeated Tony Ferguson to become the UFC Lightweight Interim Champion, Conor McGregor took to Twitter and started match-making future UFC bouts.
One of his predictions as to who he will fight next is Gaethje. However, UFC President Dana White made it very clear that Gaethje will take on UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov this summer.
"So, we are going to do Khabib and Gaethje in September," said White in a UFC Fight Night press conference on May 13. "We will see what happens this summer with Conor."
The only matchup that can happen for the lightweight title is Khabib vs. Gaethje. Since both are holding a belt, whether it be an interim strap or the real title, this matchup must happen this year. Because of all the build-up from White, September is when the championship bout will happen. This fight will give some closure as to who will be the undisputed lightweight champion.
If McGregor wants to work his way down to lightweight again, the rematch against Dustin Poirier seems like the most likely matchup. Poirier has already called him out on Twitter multiple times about a rematch. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the lightweight division, one above McGregor. If McGregor truly wants to go after the lightweight strap, Poirier is a great introduction back to the division.
The more exciting fight would be McGregor and Ferguson. However, after Ferguson's loss, White made it very clear that he will be taking some time off to recover. This is a matchup that could happen down the line, but if McGregor is serious about getting back into the octagon this summer, I do not think that this fight happens next.
Both McGregor and White are holding onto the Khabib rematch for later down the road, due in part to the vast Pay-Per-View potential. Once the dust settles and Gaethje takes on Khabib, talks of which of the two McGregor will take on can begin. For now, a matchup between McGregor and either of those two should not even be considered.
McGregor weighs in at UFC 246 at welterweight (Getty Images)
As a Conor McGregor fan myself, I will admit that he has no business fighting for the lightweight title at this time. McGregor has not competed at 155-pounds since he lost to Nurmagomedov in 2018. He needs to focus on welterweight. It is closer to his natural weight, which allows him to avoid making the 15-pound weight cut.
Many have said that Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone was not much of a challenge for McGregor's comeback in January, but McGregor looked great at 170-pounds. He was able to drop the seasoned veteran in less than a minute. Plus, not having to cut weight allows him to keep much of his muscle mass. I believe that if he put all his training and effort into becoming a consistent welterweight, at least for the time being, he could move up the ranks over the next couple of years.
If McGregor wants to stay at welterweight and work his way through those rankings, Jorge Masvidal is a great fight to make. Masvidal won the BMF belt over Nate Diaz last November and is currently ranked No. 3 in the welterweight division. Past interactions, many of which have been based around trash-talking, have laid the groundwork for an interesting rivalry between the two.
The trilogy-ending fight against Diaz is also an option. Even UFC heavyweight and former two-division champ, Daniel Cormier, thinks that this matchup must happen soon.
"If Khabib is fighting Gaethje in September, Conor fights in July versus 'Big Nate'…" Cormier said on his weekly MMA show with Ariel Helwani on ESPN. "The third fight. This is the one. It's the only one that makes sense on Fight Island."
Although this fight would bring huge numbers and would be fantastic for the fans, I am not convinced that this would genuinely interest Diaz. It would be a huge payday, but Diaz's challenge would be to sign the dotted line.
In 2019, Diaz told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani he is not interested at all in fighting McGregor. Although a lot can change in a year, he has not been outspoken about wanting the rematch in 2020.
While McGregor’s next fight won’t be for the lightweight title, I, for one, know that I will be watching with excitement and anticipation to see who “The Notorious” faces next.
Written by: Drew Pierce