After Khabib Nurmagomedov’s recent dominant win over Interim UFC Lightweight Champ, Dustin Poirier, there has been much buzz about who Khabib’s next opponent will be. Immediately following the win Conor McGregor was lobbying on social media for a rematch. No big surprise, especially considering Conor McGregor’s recent public apology, campaign for redemption and reentry into the UFC spotlight. There is no doubt that a Conor-Khabib rematch would likely yield the biggest monetary reward for everyone involved––barring a possible Khabib vs. GSP matchup––but as the hardcore MMA fans and MMA media know, Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Tony Ferguson is the fight that needs to happen next; at least if any integrity of the sport is to be preserved.
I am sure that I do not need to reiterate that Khabib-El Cucuy matchup has fallen through four times in the past. Four times! But, it cannot be overstated that this matchup should be next. That being said, the Khabib vs. Conor fight was the highest-grossing UFC pay-per-view of all time, and as the saying goes “if it makes dollars, it makes sense”. With that in mind, it would not surprise me if the UFC makes the Khabib-Conor rematch next. However, as of late there seems to be a fair amount of buzz around a few other potential matchups for Conor McGregor. Talk of matchups between Conor and Justin Gaethje, Frankie Edgar, and of a rematch with Dustin Poirier have all been making the rounds in the MMA space. Of the potential fights for McGregor––and despite the very recent uptick in the Conor vs. Frankie talk––I see the fight against Justin Gaethje as the most likely. Despite my belief that Conor and his team see Frankie as the safest bet, with all the verbal bashing Justin has sent Conor’s way, I believe that could very well be the catalyst that makes the Gaethje fight happen next. However, if in the event that the Frankie fight is in fact next, I can imagine that team McGregor would erroneously view this as the safest choice for Conor’s return to the Octagon. While Frankie Edgar is clearly in the twilight of his career, it must not be overlooked that Frankie Edgar is no doubt still very dangerous. With that being said, Team McGregor likely believe that he could hold of Frankie’s wrestling enough to keep it standing, thus capitalizing on the significant size and reach advantage that Conor woud have. I think Frankie’s inability to take down Max Holloway in their recent fight would have bolstered this belief. Frankie Edgar is a legend of the sport, still has a big name, and has lobbyed for a fight against Conor several times in the past, and so I can see how this potential fight could still have legs, but somehow I feel that the Gaethje fight may win out in the end.
The fly in the ointment for all things at the top of the UFC’s Lightweight Division, could boil down to nothing more than the amount of money a Khabib-Conor rematch would generate. Once again, much to the dismay of the hardcore fans, this would put the Kabib-Tony matchup on ice . . . yet again, but the heat between Khabib and Conor and there teams could not get more real, and there is nothing that brings casual fans to the table more than spectacle. This prospect seems even more likely considering that the talk of the Khabib-Tony matchup has somewhat died down in the last few weeks. I am not saying that the Khabib-Conor rematch is the inevitable next lightweight championship fight, however, I am becoming more concerned that we will not get to see El Cucuy get his well-deserved shot. UFC presidentt Dana White seems to have warmed up to the idea of a Khabib-GSP matchup also, as of late, and the possibility of this matchup would not bode well for El Cucuy and raises further questions as to who will be next for Khabib. I feel that while a Khabib-GSP matchup would be a big draw, there is no heat between Khabib and GSP, and heat is what sells a fight. With this in mind, Khabib vs. Conor could still have the wings it needs to fly with the UFC brass.
Regarding the string of notorious (pun intended) headlines about Conor McGregor’s extracurricular activities that have come up recently, I believe that Conor has veered off the warriors path in his pursuit of fame, fortune and celebrity and I believe that he may very well be at either a pivotal crossroads, or at the precipice of a downword spiral. My analysis, is that his lobbying for the Kabib rematch is purely an attempt to repair his own ego and perhaps regain his reputation as a top pound-for-pound UFC fighter, and not simply a celebrity-come-business-magnate with big social media prowess. My belief is that if Conor McGregor succeeds in getting the next shot at Khabib––and a chance at redemption––I see him likely failing at the attempt once again. I do believe that Conor could put Khabib in danger if they rematch, whereas his striking really is that good, but I feel that Khabib’s championship mindset and the fact that he has never been dropped, make me envision another dominant win for him.
It is possible that Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor may not square off in the UFC Octagon again. Khabib’s continued rise in widespread notoriety and universal adulation in the fight world, combined with Conor’s seemingly endless negative headlines, may pull these two stars out of each others orbits, so-to-speak. But, something tells me that––despite the fact that Khabib wants to fight Tony Ferguson then GSP and then possibly retire––the balad of Khabib and Conor will be continued. Furthermore, considering how the Khabib-Tony talk has died down somewhat in the recent weeks, and how talk about Conor’s next fight has shifted back and forth between Justin Gaethje and Frankie Edgar, it would not surprise me if the UFC were to pull a fast one and find a way to make the Conor-Khabib rematch next. I believe that we will know the answer sooner rather than later, and considering any Conor McGregor news tends to get top billing, you can be sure the story will not fly under the radar.