One of the biggest mysteries facing the mixed martial arts world in the aftermath of UFC 205 is what exactly Conor McGregor will do next.
McGregor became the UFC’s first simultaneous two-division champion when he trounced Eddie Alvarez earlier this month at the promotion’s historic New York debut. And now, with the featherweight and lightweight titles in tow, McGregor appears to have a bevy of options at his disposal. He could defend his either of his belts against the slew of contenders waiting for him at 145 and 155, or he could test history even further by gunning for a third belt against UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
At this point, even the UFC is unsure which direction the popular Irishman will set his sights on, as McGregor has indicated that he will sit out until mid-2017 due to the birth of his first child. But when posed with the big money question on Monday, McGregor’s longtime striking coach, Irish legend Owen Roddy, had a few ideas about what could be next.
“Maybe Woodley?” Roddy suggested on The MMA Hour. “For me, for him to go up and go for three belts, maybe Woodley. But (Nate) Diaz again, as well, is another great one because I think it’s what fans would want to see. They want to see something special again. The Diaz fight again is special. The Woodley fight is special.”
McGregor and Woodley generated major heat due to a series of confrontations in the days leading up to UFC 205, while McGregor and Diaz made UFC history in 2016 by headlining two of the highest-selling pay-per-views of all-time, so either of those match-ups would likely do big business at the box office. A rematch against interim featherweight champion Jose Aldo also rests out there, but the one pairing that seems to have picked up the most momentum is a lightweight title defense against undefeated wrestler Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov made a spectacle of calling out McGregor following UFC 205, and his ferocious victory over Michael Johnson at Madison Square Garden was a resounding statement for his contendership. So while it remains up in the air whether Nurmagomedov will actually be the winner of the McGregor sweepstakes, Roddy acknowledged that the unbeaten Dagestani is as viable of an option as any.
“You can’t really doubt Khabib at this stage now,” Roddy said. “He’s a phenomenal grappler, a phenomenal wrestler, but I don’t know whether the excitement is there. Obviously for Conor, it’s about the pay-per-views, about the money. Whether Khabib will hit the pay-per-views for him, I don’t know. But he’s definitely there, thereabouts, and he poses a different threat, so it would be good to try and work out the strikes that are going to land on him.
“He can be hit as well, I will say that,” Roddy added. “He got hit a bit in his last fight and the same (thing) again: I believe that if you give Conor a chance to land once, I don’t know whether people can come back from that. But it would be definitely an interesting fight. They’re the three names I suppose: Khabib, Woodley, because it would be just insane — like, can you imagine the excitement of that, that would be crazy — and then obviously you can’t argue with the Nate fight again.
“So, who knows. I always say after a fight, I never know what’s going to happen, but that’s part of the excitement, because Conor could just say, ‘yeah, I’m going to fight a middleweight.’ And he could do it, because everything he says he’s going to do, he does. He backs it up.”
It’s clear at this point that McGregor inhabits a position of leverage unlike any other in UFC history. The 28-year-old Irishman is already the biggest star the sport has ever seen, and with him claiming ownership over two separate divisions, there appears to be no ceiling to the heights he may one day reach. Still, if there was any lingering doubt about whether McGregor deserved all of the hyperbole heaped his way, his flawless victory over Alvarez at UFC 205 put it to rest.
“We just believed basically that, Eddie Alvarez, he’s a fantastic fighter, he was a great champion, but I just think stylistically Conor is their kryptonite,” Roddy explained. “A wrestler, kinda brawler, he doesn’t really punch straight too often, they’re more hooks and looping shots. And with Conor having that range on people, and he’s so clinical with his strikes, we kinda knew that Conor was going to land. And once we know Conor is going to land on somebody, it’s only a matter of time before it’s game over for them.
“Another thing as well, I didn’t think that he would have the skillset to submit Conor,” Roddy added. “I thought he might’ve got him down once or twice, and he wouldn’t be able to keep Conor down either, so the odds are hugely in Conor’s favor when it comes to that. If you can’t keep Conor down, if you can’t submit him, and he can hit you — well then, it’s only inevitable before you get clipped, and Conor clipped him early.”
With the holidays right around the corner, and McGregor likely sidelined until the birth of the first child, it may be awhile until fight fans see the two-division champion back in the cage. UFC president Dana White stated last week that McGregor will likely sit out until May 2017, and while Roddy couldn’t say for sure whether that estimation is definitive, he indicated that the guys over at SBG Ireland could be in for some tough times if a fight-crazed McGregor is stuck on the shelf for so long.
“I was thinking about that today,” Roddy said. “Somebody asked me about that, like, ‘yeah, is he out for a year?’ I don’t know. I know he’s obviously, as Dana was saying, that (McGregor’s girlfriend) Dee (Devlin) gets very worried when Conor’s fighting, and her nerves, obviously, she doesn’t need to be under any stress when she’s due to have a baby. But on the flipside, Conor, he lives in the gym and he loves to fight. So, I don’t know.
“If he doesn’t have a fight scheduled, I just pity everybody in the gym that he’s sparring with, because he’s going to be taking it out on them and pouring it on them. But yeah, I don’t know. I know nothing’s going to come about until the new year, but who knows. It’s hard to say that he will or he won’t stay out that long.”