The holidays are finally over, and after 2 weeks of gluttony, limited workouts, and traveling, I am grappling with a return to normalcy in my life. One of the things I was stoked about is I have the weekend off from covering UFC fights. UFC 219 was a mediocre PPV at best and a complete waste of $65 at worst. Carlos Condit looked like he was sleepwalking in his disappointing fight with Neil Magny as he was dominated throughout it. Carla Esparza scored a surprise decision over Cynthia Calvillo who was upset that she is no longer undefeated. Never leave it in the judge's hands, Calvillo. Daniel Hooker defeating Marc Diakiese was one of the few highlights on the main card as Hooker finally ended the fight with a guillotine in the 3rd.
The Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza looked more like attempted murder then a MMA fight. I feel that Barboza's corner really should've thrown in the towel instead of letting him go the full 3 rounds. I question how this loss will affect his career moving forward as he took a sustained beating for 15 minutes but I give Barboza credit for not mentally breaking and allowing himself to be finished.
Khabib, on the other hand, is scarier then a 10-year stint in Russian prison right now. Conor maybe talking shit on Twitter, but this isn't a match up that favors him in the slightest, which I'll get into later.
The main event of the evening featured Cris Cyborg beating six shades of shit out of Holly Holm for 5 rounds. Holm has cemented her place in history as the Buster Douglas of Women's MMA by going 1-4 after her historic victory over Ronda Rousey. Her stand up game is strong, but she is a blue belt in jiu jitsu, which puts her at a considerable disadvantage whenever she goes to ground. Like Barboza I give her a huge nod of respect for not being stopped by Cyborg and never quitting.
Cyborg continues to roll on as the scariest woman in MMA who can make weight (*cough* Gabi Garcia *cough*). I was impressed by her cardio, and she looked like she still had a lot left in the tank even after the fifth round. Now the rumor is that Dana White wants her to fight Amanda Nunes next, but Cyborg is not too keen on this idea. This is incredibly ironic after Ronda kept passing over fights with Cyborg, and now the shoe is on the other foot. We'll just have to wait and see where this story goes in 2018.
Conor McGregor hasn't stepped into the Octagon since he TKOed Eddie Alvarez to capture the UFC Lightweight title on November 12, 2016. This put him into one of the most rare fraternities in MMA as one of only 4 men to hold belts in two different weight classes. After that he did what any international superstar would do by having the largest crossover fight in Combat Sports' history, which grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, climbed into a cage of a MMA promotion the he doesn't work for to have an altercation with a referee, and he allegedly has beef with the Irish mob. You know, just your typical year away from the UFC.
Now the question on everyone's lips is, when will Conor return to the UFC, and whom will he fight? Dana White has been quoted as saying that Conor has 4 fights left on his current deal, which means that before he can launch his own promotions company a la Floyd Mayweather, he has to to finish out his UFC contract. There are also rumors of McGregor looking to negotiate to co-promote events or to even have some form of ownership in the UFC as part of these fights. In the past, this was a no go for the UFC as ZUFFA (the former UFC owners) refused to co-promote fights with M-1 to bring Fedor Emelianenko in.
The other issue that the UFC and Conor are facing is, what are the four fights to make? Here are what I consider to be the most likely possibilities:
1. Fight Max Holloway at 145lbs
Let's just get this one out of the way. This would be an incredible fight between two guys that want to stand and throw at each other. McGregor's power vs. Holloway's volume would be a fun matchup to watch. I don't think this will happen though, because I don't see how McGregor could make 145lbs without an IV.
2. Fight Khabib Nurmagomedov (in Russia)
Khabib is a bad matchup for Conor. Honestly, he is a bad matchup for anybody. Conor is not great on the ground and can be taken down. If that happens, Khabib drags him down into the Upside Down of MMA. Khabib is scarier then the Demogorgon though because he has superior grappling. Seriously, Khabib used to wrestle a bear. He would totally fuck up a Demogorgon.
Conor does have the power advantage in the fight, and if he catches Khabib going for a takedown, it could be lights out. It doesn't matter who you are, what your record is, or whom you've beat: If you get caught with a big punch at the right angle, everything just shuts off. Conor could make that happen.
To top it off, rumors keep swirling about the UFC holding an upcoming event in Russia. Luzhniki Stadium holds 81,000 people, and I believe Khabib vs. Conor could easily fill it. There are also smaller stadiums that hold between 30-45K. The crowd would be insane, especially with people from Ireland making the trip to Russia.
3. Fight Tony Ferguson
Ferguson isn't a great matchup for Conor either if the fight goes to the ground. Ferguson is a 10 Planet black belt. He is a jiu jitsu wizard who can snatch anyone up in a D'arce Choke.
The question is, though, what will the buy rate be on a McGregor vs. Ferguson PPV? Tony Ferguson is a weird dude and sometimes talks about getting out of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber in Big Bear. A lot of casual fans don't know who Tony Ferguson is yet, but it would definitely be fun to see him talk shit with Conor just to see how weird and out there it would get. Eddie Bravo would somehow figure out a way to work a conspiracy theory into this. Plus, who doesn't like it when Dana White is scared?
4. Fight Nate Diaz for the third time
Back in 2016 Conor and Nate traded wins and losses which means we need a rubber match to decide who the better fighter is. The chances of this happening in the UFC aren't likely due to Dana's rock relationship with the Diaz brothers and the amount of money that both Nate and Nick want to be paid.
A protagonist is only as strong as their antagonist, and while this isn't the fight that UFC wants to make, it would be the perfect fight for Conor to make once he is out of his UFC contract. The rivalry is there, the big personalities are there, and God knows the Diaz brothers will both happily talk some shit or get into a bar brawl to push the promotion of this fight over the top.
5. Fight GSP in a Super Fight
I'll be honest with you, I don't give a shit about this fight. Georges is huge these days fighting at 185lbs and would dwarf Conor. GSP rarely tries to finish fights and would likely spend 3 rounds lying on top of Conor. The build up to this would likely suck as well since GSP is such a nice guy he can't even bring himself to talk shit to hype a fight.
6. Wild Card, Bitches!
The final option is...who knows? I think that it's obvious that the situation with the 155lbs belt has to be resolved, but after that it comes down to what fight will make the most money for the UFC and if they can build a star(s) in the process off of Conor's name. I would love to see Conor vs. Justin Gaethje or Kevin Lee before his time in the UFC is done.
Who do you think Conor will fight next? Sound off over at Craft Brewed Sports Facebook Group.