With only a few months left in the year, the UFC is ramping up their booking for the remainder of 2019. There are some mega-fights already in the works like Nate Diaz taking on Jorge Masvidal at Madison Square Garden in November. Unfortunately, one man remains notoriously absent from any of the final UFC events of the year – Conor McGregor.
However, that could all be changing sooner rather than later. With an increasing amount of top notch fighters calling out McGregor, and potential massive paydays on the horizon, Conor’s octagon return could be an early Christmas present for those MMA fans who are naughty and nice.
Who Will Conor McGregor Fight In His Return?
There’s no shortage of potential opponents for McGregor. One fighter who’s taken an aggressive approach to calling out McGregor has been Dustin Poirier. Although he lost his world title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov on September 7th, Poirier remains one of the top fighters in the incredible lightweight division.
Additionally, Poirier has recently taken to social media to call out McGregor and ask for a rematch: “I think me and Conor running it back makes a lot of sense at this point.”
These two men first fought in September 2014, and McGregor won via 1st round TKO. Most MMA pundits and fans would argue that Poirier is a much better fighter now than he was then. McGregor chewed up and spit out Poirier on social media as expected. However, the silver lining is that Conor has actually taken an interest in engaging with Poirier. That’s more than he’s done with other fighters who’ve called him out.
Another fighter who makes a lot of sense as McGregor’s return opponent is Justin Gaethje who just defeated Donald Cerrone via 1st round TKO this past weekend in Vancouver. Gaethje has also called out McGregor over the last few weeks and even mentioned him in his post-fight interview.
Gaethje has quickly positioned himself as a potential #1 contender to the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. But, he’s an even better opponent for McGregor as it would be a huge payday and make the winner of this fight the unquestionable top contender for the UFC lightweight championship.
UFC betting sites actually have Gaethje listed as a -150 favorite over McGregor who’s a +120 underdog. These two men have never fought before, but they do have some common opponents. Poirier is an example of a common opponent where McGregor defeated him, but Gaethje lost to Dustin in April 2018.
Another reason why this fight makes a lot of sense is that there were negotiations between both camps with a bout lined up for late July, but Conor broke his hand and the fight was called off. McGregor confirmed these details in his apology tour last month:
“It’s time for me to just get back in. I was ready to go against anyone and I was preparing for the end of July and then [the broken hand] happened,” McGregor told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “I believe it was leaning towards Justin Gaethje at that time. But the game changes so quick, everyone just comes and goes. It’s a forgetful business. It is a cruel, cruel business.”
After the Gaethje fight, McGregor posted on his Twitter account: “Dublin, December 14th.”
Many MMA fans and pundits believe that this could be McGregor’s octagon return. However, the UFC will actually be in Las Vegas on that day for UFC 245. Although the UFC could certainly move a show in order to make more money, the odds of the MMA promotion changing a major PPV event from Las Vegas to Dublin are very slim. Especially, with no commitment from McGregor for that date.
What About a Rematch With Nurmagomedov?
As of now, all signs point to McGregor having to fight another opponent and win before he can get a rematch against Nurmagomedov. Additionally, that also depends on Khabib defeating Tony Ferguson in their title fight.
Online betting sites have McGregor as a large underdog in any rematch against Nurmagomedov as Conor is listed at +265 odds while Khabib is a -350 betting favorite.
The lightweight division has seen a lot of movement over the last few UFC events, which leads to Gaethje versus McGregor making the most sense. Not only would it serve to determine a #1 contender, but it will be a massive hit at the box office and on PPV. Stylistically, this is a perfect fight for McGregor as Gaethje is a fearless striker looking to add more names to his resume.
With just three months left until McGregor’s cryptic December 14th date, look for the UFC to aggressively pursue McGregor’s return fight over the coming weeks.