Conor McGregor hasn’t even made it through his next opponent, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246, and other fighters are already clamoring for the opportunity to be the Irishman’s next potential challenge.
Newly crowned UFC BMF champion Jorge Masvidal recently threw his name into the mix. The Miami-based Masvidal recently went on Ariel Helwani’s “MMA Show” where he used his time there to let the world know he prefers taking McGregor on over just about any other potential opportunity at 170 pounds, including UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
“[I would pick] the Conor fight because the Conor fight is not going to be there,” said Masvidal to Helwani. “The ‘Who?’ [Usman] is always going to be there. The owl, whatever they’re calling him. That fight is always going to be there. Somebody is always going to have that belt. So it’s not a big deal.”
UFC 246 takes place January 18 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
Masvidal’s Stunning 2019 Run Made Him Huge UFC Star
Jorge Masvidal has been raking in 2019 Fighter of the Year awards all over the internet as of late due to the 35-year-old’s impressive feats over the last nine months of 2019.
In fact, nobody could have predicted the type of year Masvidal was about to have back in March 2019 when he stepped back into the cage for the first time since losing to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson back in November 2017.
But Masvidal thumped Darren Till via second-round knockout at UFC Fight Night 147 on ESPN+ in London. He followed that up by scoring the fastest knockout in UFC history against previously undefeated braggart Ben Askren at UFC 239 in July.
Finally, Masvidal defeated Nate Diaz via second-round stoppage for the BMF title at UFC 244 in November at Madison Square Garden in New York to solidify his sudden standing as one of the top stars in the sport.
McGregor Already Shortlisted Masvidal as Potential Next Opponent
For those hoping to see McGregor vs. Masvidal in 2020, things seem to be moving in that direction a bit, as McGregor already appears to have Masvidal on his radar.
In fact, many in the sport had just assumed McGregor’s 170-pound stint against Cerrone at UFC 246 on Jan. 18 in Las Vegas was happening in the UFC’s welterweight division so neither fighter would have to work too hard in camp to make weight. But McGregor recently disclosed in an interview with The Mac Life that he’s definitely open to facing several of the most prominent welterweights the UFC currently has to offer after Cerrone, which includes Masvidal, Usman and former interim champion Colby Covington.
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“I’d face Jorge,” said McGregor during that interview, though he also added Masvidal wasn’t at the top of his list right now.
“I’m not going to 170 just for Jorge,” said McGregor. “I like the look of that welterweight bout, the welterweight title fight. I like the look of Kamaru Usman. I like the look of Colby. I’m open to it all at 170.”
Before any of that happens, of course, McGregor will have to defeat Cerrone at UFC 246. While McGregor is considered by most to be the favorite heading into the contest, Cerrone’s long history of being one of the top-ranked lightweights in the world means he won’t be easy work.
Dana White Claims McGregor’s Plan Culminates with Masvidal
Last week, UFC president Dana White sat down with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto for a 2019 recap when the talk suddenly turned to the returning McGregor.
During that interview, White told Okamoto that McGregor’s 2020 masterplan was an ambitious one that featured McGregor’s UFC 246 bout against Cerrone, followed by a rematch against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. From there, it would lead to a savage showdown against Masvidal at 170 pounds.
While White conceded he believed McGregor had created a bad plan for himself at this point in his career, he also seemed agreeable to making all of the fights happen, assuming everyone involved in the potential matchups was on board.
Minimally, it sure does seem as if Masvidal’s epic 2019 run has McGregor’s full attention. Heck, it might even just be that BMF belt he currently has wrapped around his waist that has the 31-year-old’s eye.
“Conor wants that belt from Masvidal,” White said. “I did it as a one-off, and like I said, it was fun. It was awesome. We’ll see what happens.”
McGregor vs. Masvidal for ‘BMF’ Belt in 2020?
When the concept of the BMF title was introduced last year as part of the promotion for Masvidal’s main event battle against Nate Diaz at UFC 244, White told fans and media that the belt would only be a one-time thing.
“It’s a one-and-done,” White said before UFC 244 when asked to elaborate on any future possibilities for the title according to MMA Fighting. “Whoever wins (UFC 244), wins the belt and claims the title.”
But ever since Masvidal defeated Diaz for the belt, comments from White and others seem to indicate the UFC’s BMF belt has become a highly desired item that could find itself up for grabs at least one more time.
In fact, White saying the UFC would have to “see what happens” in regards to McGregor wanting to face Masvidal for the BMF belt is starkly different than how he seemed to be approaching the matter just a few months ago.
To complicate matters, McGregor surely remains the biggest draw in the sport right now, so it seems reasonable to suggest that he would have enough negotiating power at his disposal to essentially compel Masvidal to include putting the belt up for grabs should the two decide to tussle sometime later this year.
Still, after Masvidal defeated Diaz at UFC 244, the newly crowned BMF champ told reporters attending the post-fight press conference that he would never put the BMF belt on the line again.
“That says one out of one, my brother,” Masvidal said via MMA Weekly. “We can do it for the meanest motherf***er belt after this because that’s me also.”
Whether Masvidal remains true to his word remains to be seen. After all, the American probably didn’t know when he was asked that question that the BMF belt would soon become a perfectly-sized carrot he could use to lure McGregor into a massive PPV showdown in 2020.
Besides, belt or no belt, McGregor vs. Masvidal would be one of the biggest UFC events of the entire year should it come to fruition after UFC 246.