With the dust from August 26th almost completely settled, and both boxing and the UFC having moved on, with GGG vs. Canelo this weekend, and the UFC having UFC 215, and a stacked UFC 216 on the horizon, I think it's time we finally address what's next for "The Notorious".
Whether you loved, hated, or could care less about his fight and performance with Floyd Mayweather, what Conor McGregor accomplished on August 26th was something no MMA fighter ever has, and he set his family up for life in just one night. McGregor finds joy in taking on the challenges that people find impossible, and even in defeat, he holds his head high, brushes himself off, and looks for the next check. Hate on him all you want, but he is a man of his word; a warrior; and when the history books are written, he showed up.
Now, getting into what his next move is, in my opinion there's three options.
1. Nate Diaz
2. The Winner of Tony Ferguson & Kevin Lee
3. A Return to Featherweight
Obviously there are a ton of other options on McGregor's plate, especially in his mind. He absolutely could find another fight in the squared-circle, and would likely get a payday much, much larger than the UFC is offering. However, I am obviously not looking for that. Conor McGregor needs to come back to the UFC, not for any real reasoning other than the fact that we all want him back, and the company needs him.
Additionally, McGregor could chase a big money fight in the UFC, like a fight with Tyron Woodley for the Welterweight Belt, or a fight between the winner of Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw, and things of that nature, but again, those don't make as much sense.
First, Nate Diaz. The trilogy fight we don't only want, but need. Now I will be honest and clear, I have lost a ton of respect for Nate Diaz since the fallout of their second fight at UFC 202. Diaz has come off time and time again like a jealous ex, crying and bitching over everything McGregor has done since then, rooting against him the whole time. McGregor and Diaz at this point should be on the same page, as they know the other is the key to an exponential payday. Diaz needs McGregor A LOT more than Conor needs him. And it's not even close. Nate has been in hiding since UFC 202, refusing to fight Tony Ferguson, Khabib, and everyone else the UFC threw his way. These two need to throw down for one final time, for the 155-pound strap, winner take all. Simple as that.
Second, if Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor can't come to terms, or see eye-to-eye, then I think it is necessary for McGregor to defend his belt, and take on the winner of UFC 216's Interim Lightweight Championship fight, Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee. Both of these guys provide an awesome matchup for McGregor, because both of these guys have awesome stand-up, but have no issue going to the ground and finishing their opponents by submission. Not to mention both guys are tough as hell and it would be very interesting to see how many of those McGregor left-hands they can take.
Finally, a Featherweight return. 145-pound Champion Max Holloway has been doing all that he can to get McGregor's attention, looking to avenge the last loss of his career, when he dropped a lopsided decision to McGregor in 2013. That fight would be much different now, as Max has evolved and grown as a fighter, as has McGregor obviously. However, I'm sorry Max, but not only do you not bring much to the table for McGregor, but you would likely find yourself unconscious within 2 rounds. The only other featherweight who can look to get McGregor's attention is obviously Jose Aldo, but without the belt around his waist, Jose is just talking to a brick wall.
I want McGregor vs. Diaz III, for all the marbles, and I want it bad. But my gut tells me something will go wrong with setting that one up, and once that one falls apart, I have a feeling McGregor's UFC return is going to be a shit-show.
Right now we can only sit back and wait, because no one can predict what Conor McGregor is ever going to do. All we can do is hope we see him sooner rather than later.