Former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor may receive a shot at recapturing lightweight gold, depending on the result of the UFC 276 main event. That’s according to fighter and MMA analyst Dan Hardy.
On May 7 at the Footprint Center in Pheonix, Arizona, reigning 155-pound king Charles Oliveira will look to make his second title defense by taking out “The Highlight,” Justin Gaethje. Oliveira last fought in December when he caught Dustin Poirier in a rear-naked choke during UFC 269.
A month prior to that at UFC 268, Gaethje bested Michael Chandler by unanimous decision in a fight-of-the-year candidate.
The two will do battle inside the Octagon and if Gaethje leaves with the belt wrapped around his waist, Hardy told Submission Radio he could see McGregor fighting The Highlight next.
But if “Do Bronx” gets his hand raised, Hardy doesn’t think “Notorious” will get the opportunity. McGregor’s skillset may be enough to beat Gaethje, but “The Outlaw” said that isn’t the case for Oliveira. Further, Hardy said Notorious shouldn’t pursue a fight with the Brazilian as a loss to Oliveira could be very damaging to his brand.
Hardy Breaks the 2 Different Scenarios
McGregor could return to fighting in the early fall, UFC president Dana White said recently. But, he shouldn’t campaign to fight Oliveira, as well as UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, Hardy said.
“I think if Gaethje wins, you might see Conor McGregor in there,” Hardy said via MMA Junkie. “I think if Oliveira wins, I don’t think we’ll see him anywhere near that lightweight belt. Whether he wants to fight for it or not, I don’t think he’ll get it, and I don’t really think [Kamaru] Usman is better for him either to be honest. We’ve got Tony Ferguson against Chandler, that is a banger, and if I was Conor McGregor, I’d be looking at something like that.
“It doesn’t matter who Conor McGregor is fighting. He could fight Artem Lobov in Dublin, and he would sell the arena out. It doesn’t really matter who he’s fighting. What’s most important right now is that Conor maintains his brand and stepping in there against Charles Oliveira, for as cool as it would be for him to beat him and win the belt, it’s a shot in the dark, and it could just push his brand in the combat sports world off a cliff.”
Hardy Says McGregor vs. Gaethje Is a ‘Very Marketable Fight,’ Questions if McGregor Even Wants to Fight Oliveira
Hardy recognizes that McGregor has a much clearer avenue to defeating Gaethje inside the cage compared to Oliveira. The Highlight, although he has solid wrestling, has built his career as a striker and loves nothing more than going toe-to-toe with his opponents on the feet.
That plays well into Notorious’ game as he is a striking tactician.
On the other hand, Oliveira uses all facets of mixed martial arts to get his hand raised, and Hardy said to the outlet that he could see Do Bronx hurting Notorious and then submitting him.
“Does McGregor want to fight Charles Oliveira?” Hardy said. “Is it a fight that’s gonna really, really sell? Is it worth taking that fight knowing full well that most likely he’s gonna get beaten up and submitted? I think there are lots of really interesting fights for Conor McGregor, but unless something drastic has changed in the last few months while he’s been healing his leg, I don’t think he has the skillet to beat Charles Oliveira.
“I do think he has the skillset to beat Gaethje, and I think that’s a very marketable fight. Especially because they speak the same language, they can (go) back and forth. Gaethje is a funny dude. He’s not gonna back down, but he’s gonna bring brutality to the octagon, and Conor McGregor brings sharp shooting to the octagon, but he does get tired, and he does get worn down and for as long as Justin Gaethje can take those shots, Conor will be getting tired.”