Ranking the 4 Best Opponents for Conor McGregor's Next Fight

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IIDecember 8, 2021

Ranking the 4 Best Opponents for Conor McGregor's Next Fight

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    It's hard to believe, but it's already been over 150 days since Conor McGregor suffered a broken leg in a first-round TKO loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264.

    The Irishman is well on his way to recovery and already seems to be formulating comeback plans, telling his Twitter followers recently that he expects to be back to MMA sparring in April and back in the Octagon soon after. 

    UFC President Dana White has also contributed to the growing McGregor comeback buzz, shedding some light on the former two-division champion's head space on a recent episode of The Jim Rome Podcast.

    "He's chomping at the bit to get back in there and compete again," White said. "For him to start training again in April is probably about right." 

    With all the signs seemingly pointing to another McGregor fight in 2022, the big question is who he'll be standing across the cage from.   

    His brutal loss to Poirier—his second in a row to the American—will probably keep him out of the lightweight title conversation for the moment, but he still has plenty of exciting options.

    Keep scrolling for the five fights we like best for the Irishman.

Nate Diaz

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    This will probably always be the biggest fight available for McGregor. Not only is Nate Diaz one of the few fighters on the UFC roster who can come close to the Irishman in terms of star power, but they're also tied 1-1 across two previous fights.

    The pair first met in March 2016, when Diaz replaced Rafael dos Anjos on 11 days' notice. The Stockton, California native ended up handing McGregor his first loss in the Octagon, winning the fight by second-round submission.

    They met again five months later when the Irishman evened the score, scraping by Diaz with a majority decision win in one of the best fights in UFC history. 

    Today, with McGregor riding back-to-back losses to Poirier and Diaz coming up short against Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal in his last two, the trilogy arguably makes more sense than ever. The UFC matchmakers have seemingly been saving it for a rainy day, and it doesn't get any bigger than this one. 

    McGregor's longtime coach, John Kavanagh, suggested as much during a recent interview with The MMA Hour (h/t MMA Fighting).

    "I'll be honest, the Nate Diaz trilogy is very, very tempting," he said. "It's a fight that gives me nightmares. The man doesn't stop coming forward, whether it's three rounds or five rounds, but it's an intriguing fight. So that one is definitely very interesting."

Tony Ferguson

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    HOUSTON, TEXAS - MAY 15: Tony Ferguson looks on prior to facing Beneil Dariush of Iran during their Lightweight Bout at the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Diaz isn't the only opponent Kavanagh likes for McGregor's next fight. The coach also expressed interest in a fight with former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.

    "The Tony Ferguson one—it never happened. It was talked about a lot," he said. "And Tony still has, I believe, a lot to offer the game. He's a very unorthodox striker, grappler. I think the buildup would be fun for the fans." 

    As Kavanagh stated, McGregor and Ferguson have never shared the Octagon, which is pretty surprising considering their overlapping time near the top of the UFC lightweight division.

    In a perfect world, we would have seen them fight in 2017, when the Irish star still held the undisputed lightweight title and Ferguson had the interim title.

    That being said, it still makes plenty of sense today, primarily because both fighters have fallen on hard times. Ferguson is enduring an even rougher patch than McGregor, with consecutive losses to Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush in his rear-view. 

    Both lightweight legends are in dire need of a win. Pit them against each other on a summer pay-per-view, and see if either can prove they still belong among the division's top fighters.

Dustin Poirier

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    Dustin Poirier and McGregor have fought three times before. The Irishman won their first fight, a 2014 featherweight bout, by first-round knockout, but he lost the next two at lightweight by stoppage.

    At this point, many people seem to consider their rivalry settled in Poirier's favor. McGregor and his legions of fans, of course, beg to differ.  

    After his third fight Poirier, McGregor was adamant that the loss was a fluke, and he made it clear he wants a fourth bout with the Louisiana native. And because he remains the biggest star in MMA history, the UFC will at least hear him out.

    Poirier, of course, will need to sign on for that to happen. While he's currently preoccupied with a lightweight title shot against Charles Oliveira at UFC 269 this weekend, he's made it clear his No. 1 priority will always be providing for his family.

    If the right offer is made, he can surely be convinced to fight McGregor again. That will seem all the more likely if he comes up short against Oliveira this weekend.

Max Holloway

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    McGregor and Max Holloway don't have the history the Irishman has with Nate Diaz or Dustin Poirier, but they have fought before.

    They met in the featherweight division in 2014 when the Irishman won by unanimous decision. The contest was both conclusive and unspectacular, which would ordinarily make a sequel unnecessary. 

    What makes a rematch compelling is what both men have done since then, though.

    McGregor became the first fighter in history to hold titles in two weight classes concurrently, winning the featherweight and lightweight straps. Holloway, who's riding dazzling wins over Yair Rodriguez and Calvin Kattar, became one of most dominant champions in featherweight history.

    Both men have cemented their place among the best fighters of all time, and that's reason enough to set up the rematch.

    Yet the rematch is all the more interesting because McGregor and Holloway are in the same unusual position: Neither man has a UFC title, but they're both the biggest star in their weight class (Holloway at featherweight, and McGregor at lightweight).

    The fight would be a blockbuster and a classic reminder that there's a lot more to MMA than championship fights. And while it's impossible to say who would win, it would kick the best-boxer-in-MMA debate into overdrive.

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