Last year was a wild, history-making year for MMA superstar Conor McGregor. In March, he was submitted in the second round by Nate Diaz, but in their August rematch, McGregor bounced back to out-point the “Stockton Slapper” in a thrilling 5-round slugfest. He capped off his octagon appearances for the year by dominating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 on way to becoming the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold two belts.
Height: 5’9″ | Reach: 74″ | Age: 28
With his first child on the way, McGregor announced after UFC 205 that he would be taking a hiatus of indeterminate length from the sport. So that leads us to the million-dollar (or perhaps $100 million) question; who’s next for the Irish superstar?
Height: 5’8″ | Reach: 72″ | Age: 39
Floyd Mayweather is only potential opponent for McGregor with no MMA experience. On the flip side, McGregor has no professional boxing experience. Any potential meeting between the two would almost assuredly occur inside the boxing ring, which would give the 49-0 Mayweather an overwhelming advantage.
The two have been toying with the idea of a super fight for more than a year now, and the relevant parties are apparently in serious negotiations now. If the bout ever happens, it will almost certainly set pay-per-view records and result in record paydays for both fighters.
Height: 6’0″ | Reach: 76″ | Age: 31
Stockton, California native Nate Diaz sports a 19-11 MMA record, but his fearless demeanor inside the octagon makes him a bigger draw than fighters with far fewer losses.
In their first meeting, Diaz fought McGregor on short notice and came perilously close to being KO’d, before flipping the script and winning by submission. Their second fight went the distance and was about as entertaining as MMA can get, which bodes well for a high-grossing rubber match.
Height: 5’10” | Reach: 70″ | Age: 28
Nurmagomedov, with a perfect 24-0 record, is the No. 1 contender in the UFC lightweight division. Currently training at the famed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, the two-time Combat Sambo World Champion was previously coached by his father at their home in Dagestan, Russia.
Stylistically, Nurmagomedov would probably pose the greatest challenge of all McGregor’s possible contenders. The Russian has shown the ability to eat a punch on way to throwing opponents to the canvas where he excels at the ground-and-pound game. And like Mayweather and Diaz, Nurmagomedov knows how to talk smack. For him to have a crack at McGregor he will have to prevail against Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 on March 4th.
Height: 5’11” | Reach: 76.5″ | Age: 32
Ferguson, with a perfect 22-3 MMA record, is the No. 2 contender in the UFC lightweight division behind Nurmagomedov. He is on a 9-bout win streak with his latest W coming in November over former champ Rafael dos Anjos.
From McGregor’s perspective, “El Cucuy” might make more sense than Nurmagomedov, as he prefers to keep fights upright where the Irishman is at his best.
Height: 5’9″ | Reach: 74″ | Age: 34
Tyron Woodley, the eleventh of thirteen siblings, hails from Ferguson, Missouri (the same Saint Louis suburb which saw large protests following Michael Brown’s shooting by a policeman). He was a football and wrestling star McCluer High School, before becoming a 2-time NCAA All-American wrestler for the Missouri Mizzou.
Woodley retained his UFC welterweight belt at UFC 205 in a hard-hitting majority draw decision against star-in-the-making Stephen Thompson and is scheduled for a rematch at UFC 209. For McGregor, the most appealing part of a possible Woodley bout would be the pursuit of a belt in yet another weight class.
Height: 6’3″ | Reach: 81″ | Age: 39
Any possible meeting with Brock Lesnar, who at times has weighed more than twice as much as McGregor, would come in the WWE and not UFC, and would purely be for show — albeit between two of the better trash talkers in the game.
The pay-per-view boost that McGregor could bring with a WrestleMania appearance could pad his bank account without any real risk to life and limb.