Handicapping Conor McGregor's Next UFC Opponent

Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone at UFC 246
Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 / Steve Marcus/Getty Images

Conor McGregor is currently without an opponent to prepare for. With UFC 249 going down this weekend and the interim version of McGregor's old lightweight title on the line, it got us thinking about McGregor's future.

The Irishman is keen to fight again and before the coronavirus pandemic he had planned for three fights in 2020. After a brilliant 40-second destruction of Donald Cerrone, McGregor's options looked wide-open. The 31-year-old the most interesting man in MMA and easily the biggest draw in the sport.

Here's a look at five potential opponents for McGregor as the UFC ramps back up.

Jorge Masvidal

Masvidal appeared ticketed for a bout with UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman just a few months ago. That fight failed to materialize and now we're hearing whispers that Masvidal and McGregor could face off on "Fight Island" for the BMF championship.

Masvidal's star has risen considerably over the past year. Dominant knockouts of Darren Till and Ben Askren put him on the map and a stoppage win over Nate Diaz won him the aforementioned BMF title. The welterweight is ready for another big fight.

McGregor has fought at 170 pounds three times in his career and is 2-1 in those fights. Both bouts against Nate Diaz were at welterweight and his fight against Cerrone was a welterweight bout. He can succeed at that weight, but his best bet might be to lobby for a catchweight and force Masvidal to come down a bit. Masvidal has spent years at 170 so he would definitely be the bigger man in the bout.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

This is a fight Dana White desperately wants to make. Khabib and McGregor famously fought for the lightweight title at UFC 229, with the Russian dominating his opponent and earning a fourth-round submission. Then all hell broke lose and there was a brawl in the arena.

There's no love lost between McGregor and Nurmagomedov and a return bout would likely do bonkers pay-per-view numbers. Especially if the public believed McGregor was better prepared and more focused this time around.

Khabib is the currently lightweight champion but could be forced to face whoever becomes the interim champion on Saturday. A fight with Tony Ferguson has been set up and canceled numerous times now. Given that interim champs are almost always given an immediate fight with the regular champ, it feels like a Khabib-McGregor fight might be on hold for a while. But it will all depend what happens at UFC 249.

Tony Ferguson

Ferguson is another top potential opponent as he'll fight Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight belt at UFC 249. Ferguson is on a 12-fight win streak and will likely deserve a shot at unifying the lightweight title if he wins this weekend. Or he could demand a big-money matchup with McGregor.

Ferguson has proven himself for years and is at the top of his game right now. Fights with Nurmagomedov have been scheduled five different times and fallen through regularly, so he might be tired of trying to get in the octagon with the Russian. If he wins in convincing, exciting fashion on Saturday night, he will have a ton of leverage to pick his next opponent and everyone wants a piece of the money McGregor can bring in.

If Ferguson loses this weekend, a fight with McGregor makes even more sense as both guys could fight the other to position themselves for the next lightweight title shot. He'll also have the chance to back up his claim that McGregor is as fake as the pink paste in processed chicken nuggets.

Justin Gaethje

Gaethje is the other part of the lightweight equation at UFC 249. Even if he loses this weekend, if he puts on a good showing he'll likely carry some weight in the division. He's an exciting fighter with a 21-2 record and three-straight knockout wins.

If Gaethje loses and a Ferguson-Khabib fight is made, Gaethje could be the step McGregor needs to take to get back in the lightweight title mix. The pair could headline their own pay-per-view with the victor getting the winner of the lightweight title unification bout.

Nate Diaz

So many people want to see a third fight between McGregor and Diaz. They fought twice in 2016 at UFC 196 and UFC 202, and both bouts were entertaining with some of the best buildup the UFC has seen in years.

Diaz won the first fight by submission in the second round after McGregor clearly gassed himself out in a dominant first round. McGregor won the second fight by majority decision in a back-and-forth affair.

There's a lot of money to be made if these two could work out a fight together. They trash talk as well as any two fighters in the game and the pre-fight hype would be incredible.