Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)

Return of the Mac: who should Conor McGregor fight in his highly anticipated UFC comeback?

Intrigue surrounds ‘the notorious one’ amid talk of a Mayweather rematch and Dana White raising the possibility he never steps in the Octagon again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 2018, 1:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 2018, 1:28pm

Conor McGregor used his Instagram to confirm that he is ready to step back into the Octagon and return to the UFC, after conflicting reports on his fight future emerged in recent days.

The Irishman said he was ready to step in to take on Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 on March 3, after current champion Max Holloway pulled out of the featherweight title fight through injury.

Edgar’s manager Ali Abdel-Aziz took immediate exception to McGregor’s post, calling him a “prostitute” and claiming that the Irishman dodged three fights with Edgar already.

Needless to say the offer has not been taken up.

It’s been well over a year since McGregor stepped into the Octagon, when he won the lightweight title at UFC 205 beating Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.

But the Dublin native suggests he is ready to return: “Taking out the final featherweight, without all of the rest of the stuff that comes with this game.”

The news comes on the back of UFC boss Dana White confirming to TMZ that McGregor would be stripped of his lightweight title so that the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson fight would be for the full belt rather than the interim.

McGregor was previously stripped of his featherweight title.

White also suggested that he didn’t know if the one-time double belt holder would return to the Octagon, claims that McGregor appears to have refuted on social media.

The possibility of a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jnr also remains on the table, according to White.

McGregor has made it clear that he is primed: “It is on them to come and get me. Because I am here. “

So who should go and get him? Here are five of the most likely candidates of a list of suitors that is long as McGregor’s money.

Max Holloway (19-3-0)

The man who has had to pull out of the rearranged Edgar fight has won 12 straight since he last tasted defeat – to McGregor by unanimous decision back in 2013. The 26-year-old Hawaiian has made it clear he wants another shot at the Irishman and as the current featherweight title holder he is probably in a position to call it. Holloway’s most recent win came against Jose Aldo in December, Aldo having stepped in to replace an injured Edgar.

Holloway disposed of Aldo with a third round TKO to retain his title, his first successful defence. His lack of love for McGregor is well documented, most recently voicing his displeasure at the increasing talk of a McGregor-Mayweather UFC fight.

Nate Diaz (20-11-0)

McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh has laid out a scenario where a third McGregor-Diaz match-up plays out on New Year’s Eve. This would see Diaz fight (and beat) Tyron Woodley and McGregor take on the winner of Ferguson-Khabib before resuming their hostilities in the Octagon.

The pair fought at UFC 196 in March 2016 when Diaz won and again in August that year at UFC 202, when McGregor was victorious by majority decision.

Diaz has not fought since.

Tony Ferguson (25-3-0)

The interim lightweight champion until McGregor is stripped, the American took the title at UFC 216 last October after choking out Kevin Lee. That was his tenth straight victory in the division.

Ferguson has been vocal that McGregor must “defend or vacate” the belt, with the “Mexican Boogieman” calling out the Irishman earlier this week on Twitter.

If Ferguson defends his title against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in April then he must be in line for a fight with McGregor, were the former champ to return to lightweight.

Kabib Nurmagomedov (25-25)

A blockbuster clash against the all-conquering Dagestani now looks more likely than ever. Injuries have held the 29-year-old back in the past, despite his constant calls to be taken seriously as a title contender. McGregor himself has always been quick to pour water on Nurmagomedov’s claims that he’s ready for a title shot. But in the Irishman’s absence, the judo black belt has grown in stature in the UFC’s lightweight division.

A convincing win over Michael Johnson in November 2016 (on the undercard of McGregor’s last UFC appearance when he disposed of Alvarez) was followed up last December by a thoroughly impressive ‘performance of the night’-claiming decision win over Edson Barboza.

Many in the sport now think Nurmagomedov is poised to be the organisations next great champion. It’s just the injury-laden year-long gaps between fights that have been the question mark. Hopefully now, they are a thing of his past.

Tyron Woodley (22-18-3-1)

Perhaps it’s an outside bet for McGregor’s return, but the talk of a throw-down with the UFC’s welterweight champion Woodley hasn’t gone away. Indeed, Woodley himself has said he’d like to mix it with the Irishman.

On the face of it, the 35-year-old Woodley is far too big for McGregor; a fair catch-weight could be a consideration in any negotiation. But in McGregor’s typically bombastic style, he has said he would welcome the chance to become a three-weight UFC champion. And it would be typical McGregor for him to actually pull it off.

The pair got in to an unseemly Twitter spat at the end of 2016, and rumours of a potential showdown between the pair have refused to go away since then.

Is Woodley’s welterweight crown next on McGregor’s radar? Woodley claims he has had conversations with Diaz about a match-up, and while Diaz was bigger than McGregor, the two fought twice. McGregor wouldn’t be the first fighter to swap the salads for steaks to bulk up to welterweight.