As Conor McGregor prepares for his comeback fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, it’s safe to assume this isn’t exactly the fight everyone was waiting for when it comes to “The Notorious”. Cerrone feels like a place holder, a prequel, a warm-up, as McGregor could then go a number of ways (if he wins), most probably towards Jorge Masvidal and his ‘BMF’ belt or a title shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson for the UFC lightweight crown. With visions of “what if” fights in mind, let’s take a magical, fantastical stroll into a different multiverse. As Sunday, January 19 (11am HK time) and UFC 246 beckons, McGregor has publicly laid out his “list” of fighters he wants to pummel in his late career comeback. One fight I’d love to see (if time machines existed, of course), is one that has probably been MMA water cooler talk and bar stool fodder for endless heated discussions from Dublin to Mong Kok. The debate has been MMA nerd internet chatter lately – a UFC gameplay simulation of Lee vs McGregor on YouTube has almost six million views, a Quora thread, a Comic Vine survey and a slew of Reddit posts. Lee fighting “Mystic Mac” has more roots than most imagined fights as McGregor has referenced and cited the MMA pioneer multiple times over the years. The first recorded interview on YouTube goes back to 2014 when McGregor commented on Lee as a potential modern day UFC fighter in a promotional interview before Fight Night 37 in which Alexander Gustafsson took on Jimi Manuwa (McGregor was not on the card). “I have no doubt he would have been world champion in MMA, no doubt,” McGregor said. “He’s fluid, he’s loose, he’s fast. His movement is fluid, it’s efficient, it’s functional. So many guys are addicted to strength and conditioning, they just get bulked up and stiff and slow. Bruce was free, his body was nimble.” Then of course, before McGregor’s boxing tilt against Floyd “Money” Mayweather in 2017, Mr Loudmouth said the only way to beat him was to basically be Bruce Lee. “What other mixed martial artist is there like me?” He told The Mac Life, his personal YouTube channel. “He’d need to reincarnate Bruce Lee, and that would be the only person he could bring in that could mimic me and the way I’m coming at him. I’m not like any other mixed martial artist, I’m not like any other boxer.” Sadly, McGregor turned out to be like every other boxer and lost to Mayweather in one of the most boring matches since paint learned to dry. But one can be certain, an Octagon tilt inside the cage against Lee would most likely live up to the hype, so let’s get to the blatant fanboy theorising and endless blabbering about how this tilt would actually play out. For logic’s sake, imagining a world in which time machines are readily available for MMA fighters, let’s catapult Lee, who was born in 1940 and died in 1973 at the age of 32, to 2020 and the same age as McGregor is now – 31. That would mean both were past their physical prime, but may have made for a more exciting fight given they would both bring experience to the cage. Also, for argument’s sake, let’s not transport Lee out of his generation into a new generation of fighters who have been training specifically for mixed martial arts bouts under very specific circumstances. Lee was a movie star towards the end of his life, but let’s surmise that if he was in fact born in the late 1980s like McGregor, he would have naturally gravitated towards becoming a mixed martial artist. Now, this would afford Lee some additional training he most likely lacked during his life – on the ground wrestling and grappling, a huge component of any modern day MMA repertoire. Lee would have obviously rounded out his stand-up striking game with some take-down defence, though it may not have been his strongest attribute, much like McGregor. The two also differ substantially in weight. At one point Lee apparently bulked up to 165 pounds (74 kilograms) but is most commonly listed at 58 kgs and stands at 1.72 metres. McGregor on the other hand is listed at 1.75m and 70 kgs, which is the weight he will fight Cerrone at in a few days. So, once again for argument’s sake, let’s say Lee had bulked up to make for a convincing catchweight and felt comfortable with some added muscle on his bones. When it comes to reach, McGregor, listed at 188 centimetres, clearly would have the advantage over Lee, who’s reach is tough to verify, but probably clocked in much shorter. With all of this measuring, we also need to throw in the fact that these two are nowhere near physically similar and Lee would most likely have fought for most his career at featherweight. The fight that everyone would want to see – and would hopefully get – is Lee and McGregor trading shots on their feet: leg kicks, jabs, knees, dirty boxing, maybe some roundhouse punches for crowd flair, a veritable dogfight meets a bloody chess match where kung fu and Thai kick-boxing would mesh with traditional striking defence and God only knows what. The two have long made names for themselves as being decisive, artistic and unpredictable strikers, landing assassinating blows out of nowhere. First it was Bruce Lee. Now it is Conor Mac. pic.twitter.com/5cqMZIHH1l — Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 9, 2018 So who would win? The pioneer or the legend? The IGN gameplay simulation with millions of views has Lee winning at the end of the second round with a leg kick to the head. I can’t not write about a potential fight and pick a winner, that would not do any justice to the MMA nerd in me. McGregor has a clear height, weight and reach advantage against Lee, and doesn’t give up anything remarkable when it comes to juxtaposing their skill sets. Lee has a serious “X factor” given he was both a master and student of the craft, but McGregor has long proved he can also whip up magic from his bag of tricks. If this fight stayed upright, it could go either way and Lee would have a serious chance at delivering a knockout blow. If it went to the ground, one would have to give the nod to the Irishman once again via a TKO ground and pound or choke hold submission. I’d have to put my money on the Irishman for this one, but would be secretly rooting for an upset from the Hongkonger. Sadly I’m not taking the sexy route and instead using good ol’ deductive reasoning: all things considered, McGregor would probably win this fight given his multiple statistical advantages. Now, can some astrophysicist please solve the space-time continuum so we can make this fight happen and throw the Cerrone comeback tilt in the trash where it belongs?