When it comes to banner years, pretty much everyone on the face of the planet is having an off one. When it’s all said and done, most of us will chalk 2020 up underneath the loss column, and hope for a comeback in 2021. Understandable, given we are still in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic which has brought large parts of the world to its knees like we haven’t seen since the Second World War. But there have been outliers, and in the sporting world, nobody has had a better year, all things considered, than the UFC . They shut down briefly during the first wave of Covid-19 in the US, then got back up and rolling in Florida (without fans), left that state before its second wave crushed it, held a few fights in Vegas at its facility, then flew to Abu Dhabi and hosted the remarkably successful series of Fight Island shows. Dana White and company have been winning when other sporting leagues have been sitting on their hands and knees. Now that the NBA, NHL and MLB are back, soon to be followed by the NFL, mixed martial arts’ time hogging the spotlight is surely over. But White has a massive feather in his cap – he was a man of his word and the first major sporting league back in action. While this year will go down in the win column for the UFC, one has to wonder if there shouldn’t be an asterisk beside it. When you are winning, it means your marquee superstars are winning. The UFC’s biggest name of all-time, Conor McGregor, however, has only fought for 40 seconds this calendar year . His thrashing of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 in January has turned out to be the biggest sporting tease of 2020. Not only did a buff McGregor, fighting at 170 pounds in the welterweight division, look full of life and bulging muscles, but he also brought a serious element of star power back to the Octagon. Chandler KOs Henderson; says he’d make McGregor ‘see Jesus’ Looking back on press clippings from after the fight, there’s major outlets spilling buckets of ink all over him, fawning at the 32-year-old’s ability to pack fans into arenas and smash pay-per-view numbers like no one before. His opponents listed after UFC 246 were plentiful, but now we are some seven months down the road and McGregor is “retired”, as White seems content to let him sit and stew on the sidelines. The new wave of chatter around a McGregor super fight with Manny Pacquiao in the boxing ring is the last thing anyone needs right now. We all know how McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr went in 2017. The lead up and hype was amazing, only for us to watch 10 rounds of Mayweather toying with his opponent like he always does with the most boringly productive form of defensive and technical boxing we’ve all come to loathe. Pacquiao is much more inclined to get into a brawl in the ring and let his emotions get the best of him, and I’m sure his lining up against McGregor would make for a somewhat entertaining boxing match, given the circumstances and the weight difference. But how many UFC fans are frothing at the mouth to watch McGregor go up against someone like, say, Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal , who brought a big pay-per-view buy rate to his late replacement bout against Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 in July? The lead-up alone between McGregor and Masvidal would be delicious fodder – the trash talk would be legendary, and fans or no fans, it would be an instant headlining classic. Pacquiao can sell a fight, there is no denying that. But McGregor needs an adversary to help whip the masses into a feverish frenzy as he struts around as cocky as can be with his beautiful one-liners. The Filipino is not a worthy adversary in that regard, and would make for a muted, tepid build-up, whereas Masvidal would surely bring the best out of “Notorious” once again. To put it bluntly, capping off 2020 with a McGregor-Masvidal bout would make the UFC look like they pulled off an absolute miracle of a year during this pandemic. Not to oversimplify things, but the UFC should be cold-calling McGregor on a daily basis with potential fights. Nate Diaz, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, some guy off the street, it does not matter. McGregor is pure talent, and a once-in-a-generation style of fighter who has elevated the UFC to another level with his presence alone. This year will still be a win for the UFC, but if it’s looking for the cherry on top to a perfect 2020, get McGregor back in action, one way or another before he chases another pay cheque into the boxing ring.