Nobody had a better start to 2020 than Conor McGregor. “Notorious” put on a clinic at UFC 246 in January against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. It took the Irish superstar all of 40 seconds to demolish his opponent. McGregor, who busted out his trademark “Billionaire Strut”, was back with a vengeance and ready to take the MMA world by storm once again in 2020. The potential fights were being thrown out a mile a minute, and it looked like 2020 could be a banner year for the UFC and the UFC’s marquee star. Then a global pandemic, and a squabbling war of words between McGregor and UFC president Dana White, which included McGregor “retiring” via a Twitter post with photo of a cake, was all we got for the rest of the year when it comes to the sport’s most recognisable and bankable star. Khabib Nurmagomedov’s absolute thrashing of Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, and subsequent retirement announcement, added another wrinkle to the McGregor comeback parade. Many believe White was salivating at the chance of having a lucrative grudge match between the two to settle a long-standing feud that has only festered with time. Khabib-McGregor II would easily be the biggest UFC fight of all-time, and White was apparently doing everything in his power to make it happen in 2020. UFC: Cormier backs Makhachev to succeed lightweight king Khabib While the UFC did a remarkably good job in 2020 withstanding the pandemic, they failed when it came to their two biggest stars: McGregor and former light heavyweight title holder Jon “Bones” Jones. He fought in February not long after McGregor, but has yet to make his way back into the Octagon after similar disputes with White, and endless social media feuds with other fighters. Now, finally, 2020 is over and we can look for fresh starts in 2021. McGregor is set to return to the Octagon at UFC 257 on January 23 on Fight Island to cap off a trio of impressive cards. Unless McGregor has lost more than a few steps in 2020, which is pretty clear he hasn’t given some Instagram posts of him working out and training hard, one thinks his next opponent, Dustin Poirier, could have his hands full. McGregor beat Poirier all the way back in 2014 at featherweight in convincing fashion, but six years in the fight game is an eternity. Poirier has proven himself to be a lightweight contender, scooping up an interim belt in 2019, but when it comes to beating legitimate champions like Nurmagomedov, he has proven unable to take that next step as a fighter. McGregor enters 2021 at an interesting point in his career. He will turn 33 this July and might only have a few fights left in the tank while he is still in his prime. The Irishman will have no trouble transitioning to life after the UFC, given he is filthy rich, runs his own whiskey brand and could probably make the jump into Hollywood films if he plays his cards right. He could also give White the middle finger and fight someone like Manny Pacquiao for dump trucks full of cash and ride off into the sunset. But many believe McGregor’s heart is still in the Octagon, and wrapping a belt around his waist one more time might scratch one final itch for the Dublin native. Thus, the perfect scenario could play itself out this year. McGregor’s age leaves two, maybe three marquee fights left for him. First, he needs to dispatch Poirier, which will be a test, but not an insurmountable one. Then the real juicy fight presents itself, a chance to claim Nurmagomedov’s vacated lightweight belt. If all goes to plan and by the UFC’s hopeful narrative, Justin Gaethje will find a dance partner to dismiss in the meantime, which will set up a match between McGregor and the American sometime in the spring. One of the most interesting things about this potential title fight is the two have never squared off against one another. Gaethje, who has a wrestling background, at times seems much more interested in standing up and trading blows with his opponents. He showed real versatility, poise and experience against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in May in Abu Dhabi, showcasing a new, more well-rounded and patient game. McGregor is McGregor, filled to the brim with raw, God-given talent as a striker, which could spell disaster for Gaethje if he slips back into his old ways of letting fights get the best of him mentally. What all this means is 2021 is probably a make or break year for the UFC’s biggest star of all-time. If McGregor can dispatch Poirier, and Gaethje, we could once again be back where we were in early 2020, with a potential rematch against Nurmagomedov once again on the cards. The Dagestan native is retired, after an emotional win in honour of his fallen father. But, it is safe to say, McGregor, standing in the Octagon after claiming the lightweight belt once again, calling out Numagomedov in a way only the Irishman can, we could see another comeback. Let’s hope finally, in 2021, we start getting some answers to questions we were all pining for so much at the start of 2020.