UFC superstar Conor McGregor’s dominant return kicked down a bunch of doors for the most popular active fighter on the planet.
Now he must decide which one to walk through.
“I don’t think the ‘who’ matters,” McGregor said of his next opponent after dispatching of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in just 40 seconds in the main event of UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. “I’m looking at dates now. … I’m going to have a look at a calendar and see where we’re at.
“I’ll be ready. I’ll have a celebration tonight. I’ll chill with my kids tomorrow. I’ll show Junior the fight on the telly and see how he reacts. I’ll see what he thinks of it. Then (I’m) back to training.”
McGregor predicted a lightweight title fight between top contender Tony Ferguson and champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, scheduled for April in New York, will fall through. The bout already has been scrapped four times.
He says he will fill in for whoever has to pull out, an offer UFC president Dana White said he would gladly accept.
McGregor could also wait and just fight the winner, though he said he wants to stay busy in 2020.
That would leave open the possibility of taking a fight while he waits for the winner. The most logical opponents would be Jorge Masvidal or Justin Gaethje, or a third matchup with Nate Diaz.
McGregor could also choose to return to boxing. Both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao issued challenges this week, and McGregor is open to both. He said opening Allegiant Stadium would be particularly appealing.
“Let’s see what happens,” McGregor said. “That Floyd, he’s a funny man, that Floyd. We’ll see what happens. The discussions are always ongoing. They never stop. You know Floyd is going through money fast. He’s far from retired, and that rematch will happen at some stage.”
White believes there is only one option.
He estimated the rematch of one of the nastiest, most bitter rivalries in the sport between the international star in McGregor and undefeated lightweight juggernaut in Nurmagomedov would do 3 million pay-per-view buys and be the biggest event in UFC history.
It could even rival some of the biggest boxing events of the past, both in revenue and mystique.
“After tonight, with how Khabib won the first time and how famous Khabib has become since that first fight, we’re looking at Hagler-Hearns,” White said. “We’re looking at Ali-Foreman, Ali-Frazier. This is a massive fight with global appeal. It’s the fight you make.”
Of course, that would require Ferguson stepping aside or McGregor waiting until at least summer. That plan would also rely on Nurmagomedov defeating Ferguson.
Should the fight between McGregor and Ferguson get made, it may mean an end to the calm, mature McGregor who was on display this week.
“It’s got very personal with that man and his team,” McGregor said. “Look, it is what it is. I make no promises. I am who I am, and it is what is.”
A key sticking point when the fight does start to come together could be the location.
McGregor has often said he wants the rematch to take place in Moscow, but White said that simply won’t work logistically. Madison Square Garden in New York, AT&T Stadium outside Dallas, either T-Mobile Arena or Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas or Wembley Stadium or O2 Arena in London are on the short list, according to White.
Nurmagomedov has said he doesn’t want to fight in Las Vegas again, and McGregor said he would only accept a Western European venue if it were Ireland.
McGregor said he will continue to push for Russia so he can get his vengeance on Nurmagomedov’s home soil.
“I want to create spectacles for the people,” he said. “That’s one hell of a spectacle. Even me going out there in Moscow that time, the place shut down, the world took notice. They were running the streets screaming my name.
“I’m more Russian than that man. So I would love to go to Moscow and compete there.”
McGregor said he would remain in Las Vegas for several days and hash out a plan with White over dinner.
It’s unclear which one will pick up the check.