Conor McGregor once said: “I enjoy options. Options are a good thing in the fight game”.
If there is one thing that Conor McGregor has now, it is options. The Irishman, who is the only simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history, currently has fighters from five separate weight classes attempting to place their names next to his on a bout agreement. The WWE have been in contact and Hollywood has been sniffing around — and that’s all before you even mention the name of a certain 49-0 boxer.
With the many different routes stretched out in front of him it is no secret which one interests McGregor the most. At a speaking engagement in Manchester last month McGregor laid down a challenge to the biggest name in boxing.
“I have my eyes on one thing right now, and that’s Floyd Mayweather”, he said. “That fight is more than just being explored. There’s a lot of steps, but it’s the fight to make. It’s the fight I want. I believe this is the first billion fight, so people have to pay for a billion dollar fight. I believe it will happen at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year.”
A pairing of the biggest name in the history of mixed martial arts and the most dominant boxer of recent years would represent box office gold for all concerned and would be a combat sports spectacle to rival anything that has ever come before it. While some, notably Dana White, suggest that the fight can never happen it has been interesting to note the tone of his comments on a potential McGregor vs. Mayweather bout softening in recent times to the point that he has now made an offer to both parties in order to make a deal.
High profile fights in boxing have always proved more difficult to make than in mixed martial arts but this shouldn’t necessarily be seen as too immovable an obstacle in this instance. Critics of a McGregor vs. Mayweather match often cite the five-year delay (at least) in arranging a bout between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao but neglect to mention that Floyd was as responsible as anybody else for failing to make that fight happen when the skill differential between the two was arguably closer than it was when they finally squared off.
This time around, as he has suggested both publicly and privately, Mayweather wants the fight to happen and when you add that to McGregor — the master of calling his next move — this smoke might well have some fire to it. With speculation continuing to ramp up, it seems it is now a matter of when — not if — two of the most magnetic personalities in the combat sports world face each other.
However, all this talk of inter-sport match ups shouldn’t distract from the fact that McGregor prefers the freer mixed martial arts form of combat as opposed to — as he sees it — more limited range of movements allowed in boxing. What will his next move be in the sport through which he made his name?
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will meet on March 4th at UFC 209 and the winner will be awarded a lightweight interim strap by the UFC, just four or so months removed from when McGregor raised the linear title aloft in Madison Square Garden. While this amounts to little more than a ‘number one contender’ belt, it’s clear to see that whoever emerges from that fight with their hand raised will be next in line for a shot at the 155-pound title that McGregor holds — and if this comes in the wake of a box office bonanza bout with Floyd Mayweather, it becomes easier to see why McGregor has implored his potential future opponents to do something to make him want the fight.
As he might say, the best option is what’s best for business.
McGregor is a fighter who is fixated on creating history. He takes pride in holding numerous gate and PPV records and in being the only person to hold two title belts at the same time. Even if he were to retire tomorrow his legacy in the sport is ensured but should he want to write another chapter in his story, then perhaps he will cast his next glance towards the winner of the upcoming Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson welterweight title rematch.
Being a dual champion is one thing. But a three division champion? That’s the sort of thing that makes Conor McGregor’s ears perk up.
With so many different options in front of him, it’s hard to predict Conor McGregor’s next move. While it’s true that there are some obstacles in the way of a meeting with Floyd Mayweather, who at this stage would be confident in saying that they’re certain that fight can’t be made? Or is it the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, or Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson?
And all this without even mention the name of Nate Diaz, possibly the biggest PPV fight that can currently be made in the UFC.
Conor McGregor stands at a crossroads of which he is the sole navigator and it will be fascinating to see which path he decides to walk down.