Conor McGregor retire? Forget about it – he’s got plenty of big fights left in him for UFC
‘The Notorious’ may have lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov but it won’t diminish his aura, and he could rule the lightweight division again if Russian is suspended
The conventional wisdom seems to now be that since Conor McGregor couldn’t beat the most dominant lightweight of all time, he should just retire from mixed martial arts.
Maybe he should sit back and count his millions, happy that he was a pioneer who took the UFC into the mainstream. Or he could even go chase a payday in WWE, where he doesn’t have to take real punches to the head.
Yes, the Irishman had few answers against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 on Sunday. He may have been hoping his pre-fight mind games would provide an advantage, but they clearly just fired up the Dagestan-native even more, as evidenced by the wild brawl between the fighters’ camps that followed at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
No one has figured out a way to beat Nurmagomedov yet, though – he’s 27-0 in his MMA career, and at 30 years old is in his prime. There’s no shame in losing to him.
Some are suggesting McGregor is a broken man now, his mystique shattered. How will he be able to overcome the mental scars?
Come off it. He got outwrestled by one of the best to ever do it in the octagon, and wisely tapped out instead of letting himself be choked out.
Saying he can now never be the same fighter is nonsense. If he had been violently knocked out, then sure, some fighters do not recover from that, but McGregor’s two losses in the UFC have been by submission.
Things can quickly change in MMA, too. Everyone thought Daniel Cormier was done after his skull was rattled by Jon Jones’ shin bone. Jones took Cormier’s light heavyweight title and looked destined to dominate the division again.
But Jones tested positive for steroids before the fight, and Cormier got his title back. Cormier then knocked out heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic to become just the second UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight divisions at the same time, after McGregor achieved the feat in 2016.
UFC president Dana White said he is waiting for the Nevada State Athletic Commission to lead the way on what punishment to hand out to Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov’s purse – believed to be US$2 million – was withheld after he jumped out of the octagon and attacked McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach Dillon Dannis in the crowd. The Russian’s actions sparked chaos, with McGregor then getting into it with Khabib’s crew, one of whom jumped into the cage to sucker punch him.
Wherever you stand on who was right or wrong does not matter. Yes, McGregor insulted Khabib’s religion and family in the build-up. Yes, McGregor threw a dolly at the window of a bus containing not just Khabib but several other UFC fighters, two of whom were injured by glass shards and forced to drop out of their fights that weekend. And yes, Khabib and his entourage surrounded McGregor teammate Artem Lobov and intimidated him earlier that week before the bus incident, prompting McGregor to fly over to New York and get involved.
But all that matters is that Khabib could be given a suspension beyond a year, which would mean stripping him of his title.
That would open the door for McGregor to fight the new number one contender and former interim champion, Tony Ferguson for the vacant lightweight title.
Ferguson called McGregor out after the Pettis fight, and those two may be a better match-up stylistically than McGregor and Khabib.
Would there be an asterisk against his name if he was lightweight champion in a division that Nurmagomedov was suspended from? Sure. But McGregor wouldn’t care.
We lost the match but won the battle.
The war goes on. pic.twitter.com/CRtPaGfOnn
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) October 8, 2018
And even if he lost against Ferguson, McGregor would still have plenty of other big-money fights on the table – there’s a trilogy fight against Nate Diaz waiting for him, and Anderson Silva is keen to get one last big payday.
A potential super fight against Georges St-Pierre is also an option, as is a rematch with featherweight champion Max Holloway, who is unbeaten since McGregor won a decision against him in 2013.
The lightweight division is stacked with contenders, too, and McGregor would still be a big pay-per-view draw against pretty much anyone at this stage.
While he could follow fellow UFC trailblazer Ronda Rousey into professional wrestling, and make millions doing much less work, it would surely just be a day job for the Irishman. Rousey always dreamed of going to WWE, whereas McGregor gets his buzz from proper fights.
Who could he go against in WWE, too? The only stars there big enough to match his profile are Brock Lesnar and John Cena, but both are much bigger physically, which would make any match between them look comical.
McGregor has said on social media that he wants a rematch with Nurmagomedov, with White confirming to ESPN that “The Notorious” has already called him up asking for round two.
But the best thing McGregor can do is sit tight and see how things play out. If Nurmagomedov gets a two-year suspension, McGregor can be the king again, much sooner than anyone would have thought when he gave up on Saturday night, before all the chaos ensued.