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Looking ahead and over the next couple of years, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will have some serious thinking to do. Especially when considering which opponents Conor McGregor should face.
Of course, the Irishman himself will undoubtedly have a large say in dictating which fights he fancies and which he doesn’t, although the UFC itself would also be wise to ensure that McGregor takes top billing at future events. Likewise, giving “The Notorious” chances to fight for titles will also be important, which means these two opponents must surely be top of their list.
Score to settle with Khabib
As an event that reached 2.4 million pay per view purchases, which is by far the biggest TV audience ever, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor was certainly a huge commercial success for the UFC. However, after a neck crank by Khabib forced McGregor into submission, it was also an event which ended in the controversy of a mass brawl. As reported by the Irish Times, the Russian fighter later issued a public apology for his part in the ugly post-fight scenes.
Many past events featuring “The Notorious” have usually seen the outspoken Irishman considered a firm favourite, although if McGregor were to get a rematch against Nurmagomedov at some point, UFC betting odds for the still unbeaten Russian would likely be in his favour. That said, both would inevitably be winners when it comes to the purse on offer, given that the UFC would almost certainly generate record revenues from a rematch.
Nevertheless, getting a rematch organized is complicated. It’s hard to imagine McGregor having any hesitations, although fighting for the lightweight championship title would be preferable. Khabib might be a little more hesitant, with other fighters like Tony Ferguson higher on his list of potential rivals. This could mean we don’t see a second duel between McGregor and Khabib until late in 2021 or even 2022.
First chance to fight Ferguson
Since 2015 one fight in particular has been regarded as a priority for the UFC. Efforts to get Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov together in the octagon have repeatedly failed. ESPN recently highlighted that the pair have been scheduled to fight on five separate occasions, although for a variety of different reasons, those planned bouts were cancelled all five times.
When the UFC attempt to plan this fight for a sixth time, much will depend upon the circumstances and the willingness of both Khabib and Ferguson. While current expectations and UFC betting tips from Paddy Power are leaning towards this fight eventually going ahead, Khabib may still reject the chance to fight Ferguson any time soon.
That could present an opportunity for McGregor, and although there wouldn’t be any title at stake, the chance to beat Ferguson would prove the Irishman is back to his best. As the two highest-ranked lightweight contenders, Ferguson against McGregor would potentially be a great fight, one that would deserve top billing, and earn either the right to challenge Khabib for his title at a later date.
Best possible outcome?
Fighting against either Ferguson or Khabib are the most appealing options for McGregor at present, favoured by his legion of fans around the world and even the UFC itself. Having a title to fight for would be even better for everyone concerned.
This would indicate that the most practical outcome at present, practically speaking, would be the long-awaited fight between Khabib and Ferguson to come first, with McGregor waiting to challenge the winner of that bout and the opportunity to regain the lightweight title.