One of the top UFC insiders believes UFC 249 will open the door for a third fight between Irish superstar Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz later this year. In his ESPN.com column published on Wednesday, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani revealed Diaz to be a major player in the McGregor sweepstakes.
“If Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje actually happens on May 9, I feel like Nathan Diaz will be the big winner,” Helwani writes.
In short, Helwani believes UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje is likely going to lead to McGregor vs. Diaz 3 no matter how that event plays out, assuming it happens on May 9 as expected.
Why McGregor vs. Diaz 3 Makes Sense
McGregor and Diaz split meetings back in 2016. Diaz handed McGregor his first UFC loss in shocking fashion via rear-naked choke in the second round at UFC 196 in March 2016. But McGregor scored the revenge win four months later at UFC 202 via majority decision.
Those two fights were McGregor’s only two appearances in the 170-pound division until the Irishman thrashed Donald Cerrone earlier this year at UFC 246. Now McGregor is poised for potential blockbusters in both the welterweight and lightweight divisions.
But Helwani seems to suggest McGregor is likely to fight at 170 again next time out because facing welterweight contender Diaz is the most likely scenario assuming the UFC actually pulls off its big and bold plan for May 9.
The famed ESPN writer said Ferguson defeating Gaethje on May 9 “should guarantee a Ferguson-Khabib Nurmagomedov fight in the fall” and would also knock Gaethje out of the running for the McGregor fight because he would drop in the rankings.
Helwani went onto write, “No chance they do the [McGregor-Gaethje] fight if Gaethje is coming off a loss, right? … So, if May 9 actually happens, don’t be surprised if Diaz emerges as a player in the McGregor sweepstakes.”
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Gaethje Had Been Considered Frontrunner for McGregor Fight
Previous reports had suggested Gaethje was the frontrunner to land the McGregor fight later this year, but once the American stepped in for Nurmagomedov at UFC 249, it seems that changed.
Even if Gaethje wins, Helwani suggests Diaz is the most likely candidate for McGregor’s next outing. Gaethje defeating Ferguson on May 9 would probably lead to Gaethje getting the chance to face Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title, which means he’s not available for McGregor.
McGregor vs. Ferguson Also Possible
Finally, Hewlani admits McGregor vs. Ferguson could also be an option under that scenario. After all, both Ferguson and Diaz would be coming off losses at that point. Ferguson would be hoping to rebound quickly from losing to Gaethje at UFC 249 and Diaz is likely eager to get back into the win column after losing via controversial fourth-round stoppage to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 244 last year.
Regardless, McGregor and Diaz have already produced two epic fights. The third could smash box office records, and it would make a little more sense to make McGregor-Diaz 3 over McGregor-Ferguson.
Heck, after reading Helwani’s opinions on the current situation, it would seem McGregor-Diaz 3 is the most likely and best possible fight for McGregor’s next fight no matter who wins UFC 249.