Conor McGregor will have a lot of options for his next opponent when he finally returns to the UFC. But his head coach has a few ideas on who he’d like to see standing across the Octagon from the reigning lightweight champion.
McGregor last competed in November, when he dished out a lopsided beatdown to former champion Eddie Alvarez. Then he took a sabbatical while awaiting the birth of his first child, and entered negotiations for a potential super fight with retired boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather.
McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh believes the fight with Mayweather will come together. And then afterward, McGregor would return to the UFC for the first defense of his title.
UFC president Dana White has already said that he would like to see McGregor face the winner of the co-main event from this weekend’s card between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
Kavanagh seems to agree with that selection, although he also has ideas about another showdown with a very familiar opponent from McGregor’s past.
“I’ve said it before — the Nate [Diaz] rematch interests me a lot because it’s 1-1 and [because of] how the styles match up,” Kavanagh told Submission Radio this week. “Almost on a par with that, not much difference will be the winner of Khabib and Ferguson this weekend. I think Khabib does it, so I think Khabib will be the winner. So Khabib will be the match-up out of that.
“Below that would be GSP [Georges St-Pierre]. Purely because GSP was an incredible fighter, [I’m a] big fan of him, I’ve learnt a lot from watching his fights, but it’s a long time since he’s fought and the game changes very, very quickly and I think Khabib is sort of like a better version of GSP. Although we don’t know, it’s hard to tell how GSP and Khabib would match up. But yeah, MMA-wise, Nate or almost on a par winner of Khabib-Ferguson.”
Diaz has certainly been champing at the bit for another shot at McGregor after losing a majority decision to him last August following his second-round submission over the current lightweight champion in their first fight this past March.
Diaz hasn’t seemed interested in any other fights being offered to him, and reportedly turned down a matchup with former champion Eddie Alvarez when the UFC came calling just recently.
While Diaz might be Kavanaugh’s top choice, the coach admits that it’s hard to imagine a scenario where McGregor returns and doesn’t end up facing the winner of the fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson at UFC 209.
An interim title is up for grabs in the fight, and whoever walks out with the belt will more than likely be gunning for McGregor whenever he returns to the UFC.
“I find it hard to imagine not seeing that. You know, even with Conor getting the — if and when the Mayweather fight was to happen and he got that out of the way — I know, like myself, I do believe his true love is free combat sports and there is no freer combat sport than mixed martial arts and he is the UFC lightweight champion,” Kavanagh said.
“He did only win it a couple of months ago, so he is the lightweight champion. So I can’t imagine him not fighting the winner of that (Nurmagomedov/Ferguson). We gotta see what happens with the Mayweather talks and all that, but yeah I do believe that will happen, yes.”
For now, McGregor’s focus remains planted on Mayweather and a showdown with the undefeated former champion, which would undoubtedly net him the biggest payday of his already considerable combat sports career.
Boxing may not be McGregor’s first love, but Kavanagh seems to like his chances in a matchup with Mayweather, and he applauds the creative matchmaking that might pit the biggest superstar in mixed martial arts history against arguably one of the greatest boxers of all time.
“I would love to see the challenge for Conor to test himself in that area,” Kavanagh said about the Mayweather fight. “I’ll be honest, like right from the beginning I’ve been used to hearing, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t. You won’t train somebody up to a UFC-level from Ireland. You don’t have wrestling or grappling. It’s impossible to fight for a world title. It’s impossible to hold two world titles. It’s impossible to have a thousand-square meter gym dedicated to MMA.’ So I’ve just heard those things my whole life and yet here I am, I’m talking to you and I have a best-selling book and I’m coming to Australia to talk about that and I’ve got a world-renowned gym.
“So we’re kind of used to being told what we can’t do, but we don’t pay too much attention to it, we just get on and make things happen.”