UFC superstar Conor McGregor doesn’t have his next opponent lined up just yet, so the entire MMA world is pondering what the 31-year-old might do next. ESPN’s MMA analysts delved into the topic on Tuesday in a debate piece and discussed various topics important to McGregor’s next move, including who each writer believed McGregor “will fight” next.
Here’s who each of those insiders, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim, revealed as McGregor’s next likely opponent, along with how each writer came to his conclusion.
Maybe the most notable revelation? None of them believe it will be Justin Gaethje, who ESPN’s Ariel Helwani revealed last week was an early front-runner to land the fight.
Khabib Nurmagomedov Rematch
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto believes McGregor will face Nurmagomedov next in a rematch UFC president Dana White has likened to other classic combat sports rematches like the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier trilogy.
“I think McGregor will fight Nurmagomedov next…,” Okamoto said.
Basically, Okamoto believes Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor 2 will happen because that’s what the UFC wants, and it certainly makes a ton of sense. After all, UFC 229 was the best-selling UFC pay-per-view event ever, and the rematch would likely sell better than any other potential fight the company could make right now.
However, Okamoto isn’t so sure that McGregor will be willing to wait to see what happens in Nurmagomedov’s next fight against Tony Ferguson, so if the Irishman wants to fight this summer, Okamoto believes Justin Gaethje could still be in the mix.
And what if Ferguson wins the title at UFC 249 in April?
“If Nurmagomedov were to lose his title to Ferguson in April, McGregor vs. Ferguson would be booked immediately,” Okamoto said.
Third Fight Against Nate Diaz
ESPN’s Marc Raimondi foresees McGregor completing a trilogy against popular welterweight Nate Diaz. McGregor and Diaz split fights back in 2016, and neither fighter is currently booked for his next outing.
“He is the best available option, it seems, and McGregor vs. Diaz 3 is one of the biggest fights the UFC can put on,” Raimondi said. “The two have one of the great rivalries in the history of the sport. A third fight is one the UFC had had on the back burner since their two-fight series in 2016. But now is as good a time as any to run it back.”
Diaz defeated McGregor via 2nd-round submission at UFC 196 in March 2016, but McGregor earned the decision five months later at UFC 202 to even the score. Raimondi seems to think that the history between the fighters coupled with how many PPVs it would probably sell will lead to McGregor-Diaz 3.
‘BMF’ Champion Jorge Masvidal
Finally, ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim believes McGregor’s next fight will be a shocker. Wagenheim think’s McGregor’s next opponent will be UFC BMF champion Jorge Masvidal despite the welterweight supposedly having a title shot secured against Kamaru Usman later this summer.
“But Masvidal is in this game to make money, and McGregor is a walking, talking bank vault,” Wagenheim said. “So that’s the fight I think we’ll end up with — unless Ferguson becomes the fly in the ointment on April 18 and changes the whole dynamic. Which would be just like him.”
Last month, Masvidal revealed to Heavy he’d be happy to face the “UFC’s Golden Cow” (McGregor) next. While it seems the unlikeliest option compared to the other possibilities, McGregor-Masvidal is certainly an intriguing matchup.