Despite his ostensible retirement from MMA, there is now reason to believe Conor McGregor will return to the Octagon after all. UFC President Dana White will soon be meeting with McGregor, and he believes he can coax the Irish star back to the cage — potentially as soon as this summer.
Yet with Khabib Nurmagomedov expected to fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, and Donald Cerrone potentially fighting Tony Ferguson at UFC 238, many of most compelling opponents for Conor McGregor are currently tied up. So, if he does return to action, who might he fight?
Here are four potential matchups we like for the former two-division UFC champion:
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz III
McGregor and Diaz have fought twice before, going 1-1 across two action packed bouts in 2016. The groundwork for a blockbuster trilogy fight has already been laid — all the UFC needs to do is book it. That being said, Diaz hasn’t fought since his last bout with McGregor, and is showing increasing disillusionment with the MMA game. He’s even expressed a desire to switch to boxing. So, the big question is, can the UFC coax him back to the Octagon?
Conor McGregor vs. Justin Gaethje
With Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone all tied up, the only top-5 lightweight without a dance partner is former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje. As luck would have it, this berserk contender matches up beautifully with pretty much everybody — and that includes the torpedo-fisted McGregor. It might not be the most high profile matchup on the table for the Irishman, but it would unfailingly produce fireworks.
Conor McGregor vs. Al Iaquinta
Generally speaking, the UFC likes to pair fighters riding losses with other fighters riding losses. McGregor, though often immune to UFC procedure, might just be subject to this matchmaking pattern in his return. In that case, he could be matched up with the always entertaining Al Iaquinta, who just came up short to Cerrone in the UFC Ottawa main event. Not only is Iaquinta always fun to watch, but he’s also got the gift of gab to hang with McGregor on the mic, meaning the buildup to this fight would probably be as fun as the fight itself.
Conor McGregor vs. Max Holloway II
Though it has long seemed like McGregor is finished with the featherweight division, he also seems quite impressed with division’s reigning champion, Max Holloway. The pair have fought once before, with McGregor winning a decision, but since then, Holloway has looked nearly unstoppable as a featherweight — something McGregor has taken notice of. The Irishman has made several comments about Holloway on social media over the years — some complimentary, others not so — and might welcome the chance to reclaim the featherweight title from the Hawaiian champ. In fact, he recently suggested that Holloway is still only the division’s interim champion. The story writes itself.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/11/2019.