Everyone who watches MMA knows who Conor McGregor is. He became a superstar not only from his trash talking and press conference shenanigans, but also from his power, precision, and mentality.
The Notorious one started in the UFC at age 24 and since his debut, he has held the Featherweight and Lightweight titles and bolstered the UFC to what it is today. Some may even remember that he fought Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match that even broke records for boxing pay-per-views.
He has been on the Forbes list, the #1 on the list of richest athletes, and sold his multi-million-dollar whiskey brand; Proper No. Twelve.
In short, he has done it all. Now at age 32, many in the MMA community seem to believe that because of all the things he has accomplished he does not have the mentality to win championship gold. Keep in mind that when McGregor started his MMA career that he could barely keep a roof over his head, in 2021 he was listed as the richest athlete on the Forbes list.
However, I do not think Conor's hunger is gone, but it has changed. Now McGregor has more money than he knows what to do with, what could he still be chasing? Legacy.
McGregor, like any great athlete, has a desire to be the best. With his thirst for money quenched he now has all the resources and tools to focus on being the greatest that he can be, and I would not count him out just yet.
Kamaru Usman is 35, Michael Chandler is 34. We have seen plenty of fighters compete and even become champions way into their 30s, so the age argument does not have as much bite as one would think.
What should worry McGregor fans is how Conor plans to return. After suffering a broken leg in the Poirer 3 fight, there is no doubt a new Conor McGregor will show up to fight, but will he be improved or washed up? It is always tough to know what to expect from a fighter who has been injured, especially in MMA. This is not a sport in which competitors can ease their way in. Pain is the name of the game; these professionals punch one another for sport.
There is no wading water in a fight, no one knows how McGregor will react to that first leg kick to the repaired leg.
Fans should also remember that no one in the UFC punches like McGregor, if he gets a hold of someone early, we could see a similar fight to the Cowboy Cerrone fight that happened in 2020.
Which brings up the next issue, who is Conor going to fight?
Will he return to lightweight, or make the move up to welterweight?
As a McGregor fan, there is a lot to unravel here. There are a couple of opponents I would love to see Conor fight at 170.
Jorge Masvidal for one is a favorable matchup in my eyes.
The Nate Diaz trilogy would be arguably the biggest fight in MMA history, but it has become pretty clear that Diaz has no intention of fighting McGregor for a third time.
Kamaru Usman for the belt? Not so much, but I would be lying if I said I would not talk myself into believing Conor could pull it off.
I believe McGregor's best bet is to return to 155, the reason being that most of the guys in the top 5 at 170 are huge for that weight class. There are also a ton of exciting fights at 155 and some I think he has a real chance to win.
One matchup that is my personal favorite for his return would be Dan Hooker, whom he could also fight at 170. Hooker is coming off a losing streak himself, but he is a big name that will give Conor a leg up if he can get the result against him.
Michael Chandler challenged McGregor at 170 after his KO of Tony Ferguson but I think this fight can be made at lightweight as well, although Conor has seemed to nod off any chance at a fight with Chandler in the near future.
The Champ, Charles Do Bronx, called out McGregor after he beat Justin Gaethje to become the #1 contender (although he is still the champion in my eyes). This is an easy fight to make for the UFC because there are no true championship contenders that Charles has not beaten yet at 155 and the title will be up for grabs since it is technically vacated after Do Bronx missed weight. (I believe Islam Makachev needs a top 5 win before he gets a title shot)
As a Conor fan, I will admit that the Charles fight scares me because he has looked unstoppable lately. However, Oliveira tends to take a lot of damage early in fights and has gotten knocked down in all 3 of his title fights and came back and won. Conor is notorious (no pun intended) for knocking people out early and his left hand may be the weapon that proves to keep Charles down.
Conor McGregor's next move will be huge for his career and at 32 I would not count him out of the title picture just yet, he has a lot left in the tank.
Written by Joe Gee