UFC superstar Conor McGregor has been called lots of things over the years, but one MMA insider recently lampooned the Irishman as something he’s probably never been called before.
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim hailed McGregor as the “Kevin Bacon of MMA” on Monday in an MMA Insiders article for ESPN in which Wagenheim and other prominent MMA writers, such as Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi, offered their takes in a roundtable-style piece about what might happen next for many of the top fighters in the UFC’s stable after the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak brought the company’s upcoming schedule to a screeching halt.
Wagenheim writes, “McGregor is the Kevin Bacon of MMA. We’re always playing six degrees of separation between him and a title shot, with every twist in the road presenting another opportunity to get the Irish cash cow in with a champ.”
When Wagenheim was asked to consider what happens if UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s planned title defense against top-rated contender Tony Ferguson gets scrapped because of the worldwide pandemic, the writer says he understands why some within the company might want to slip McGregor into that spot.
But Wagenheim doesn’t think fans should fall for such a move. If UFC 249 is postponed or scrapped, Wagenheim doesn’t believe McGregor should automatically get the next crack at Nurmagomedov.
“I know why the UFC does this; the stockholders like the dividend,” Wagenheim writes. “But why should the rest of us fall in line, instead of making the reasonable request that Conor wins a fight against a lightweight contender before being granted a chance at glory?”
For Wagenheim, the changes to the UFC’s schedule shouldn’t keep Ferguson from getting his title shot against Nurmagomedov. Sure, it might delay him getting that shot, but McGregor shouldn’t jump over the 36-year-old American based on name value alone.
“So, no, Ferguson should not relinquish his opportunity and step aside for the entitled one,” Wagenheim writes. “‘El Cucuy’ earned his shot.”
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Other ESPN Insiders Mostly Agree with Wagenheim’s Analysis
Wagenheim wasn’t the only ESPN writer who doesn’t expect the coronavirus outbreak to suddenly somehow produce Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor 2.
ESPN’s Marc Raimondi revealed he doesn’t think Nurmagomedov faces McGregor next even if UFC 249 gets canceled.
“No, I can’t imagine Nurmagomedov agreeing to fight McGregor rather than Ferguson if UFC 249 doesn’t happen as planned,” Raimondi writes. “Nurmagomedov has been very firm on his position when it comes to McGregor. It’s doubtful he goes back on that, even in the wake of a global crisis.”
ESPN’s Brett Okamoto said it probably wouldn’t even come up as an option since he believes UFC 249 will happen on April 18 as planned.
“I think the UFC is all-in on Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson,” Okamoto writes. “White once famously said he would never try to make this fight again. Well, he did, and now this. It’s unbelievable, really, but I do lean towards this fight happening somewhere on April 18.”
Only ESPN’s Ariel Helwain believes the so-called “Kevin Bacon of MMA” could do a six-degreed slide into the coveted title shot.
“I sincerely hope not, but I am not ruling it out,” Helwani writes. “We all know the UFC wants to rematch Nurmagomedov and McGregor more than anything.”
Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor by fourth-round submission at UFC 229 in October 2018 in the best-selling UFC pay-per-view event ever.
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