Conor McGregor is at a crossroads.
His winning run to become the “champ champ” and an international superstar was intoxicating, but having lost three of his last five fights, he needs to think very carefully about his next move.
There’s lots of talk about a rematch with Khabib Nurmagamedov. But let’s face it, Conor essentially has a very small window in which he can beat the Dagestani fighter - effectively, the minute or so at the start of the first two rounds – or until he is taken to the ground. The 'Notorious' one simply has no answer to Khabib’s suffocating intense ground game and it’s hard to see a second bout going any differently from the first.
That leaves McGregor somewhat trapped in the UFC. His chance at regaining the lightweight title seems gone, he’s now surely too big to be able to get down to featherweight size (plus, there are few interesting match-ups for him in the division), while his knockout power won’t be quite as effective at welterweight.
There’s always the Diaz trilogy to complete, but that’s very much a sidestep rather than any clear trajectory for the Irishman.
Of course, any fight that Conor takes will sell big, but if he wants to build upon his fighting legacy rather than just sell a few more PPVs, his options seem limited.
So, if he is just simply looking to boost his bank balance further – and ideally limit the amount of damage he’ll take at the same time – a second run at boxing could well be on the horizon.
And the second fight of his professional boxing career seems obvious… Paulie Malignaggi. A fight that technically means nothing (he is a retired fighter after all) but would sell like hotcakes given the pair’s “push/knockdown” dispute during sparring ahead of the Mayweather fight. It would be the equivalent of the Nate Diaz rivalry he enjoys in MMA.
What’s more, it actually seems like a very winnable fight for McGregor, something which boxing betting markets agree with – giving him a real option of making a go at a career in boxing. Should he win, he could well be within touching distance of a title shot – after all, which boxer would pass up on a massive paycheck against a relative novice? After all, there’s very few “big names” in the 154lb Light Middleweight division currently, so the Notorious one wouldn’t be short of offers.
It would be foolish to rule out Conor McGregor, though. He’s certainly never shirked a challenge. Knocking out one of the greatest MMA in 13 seconds, taking on a much bigger opponent in Nate Diaz on short notice – losing – and then insisting on an immediate rematch, switching rulesets to fight one of the greatest ever in his own playground and, of course, most recently, taking on Khabib in a stylistically awful match-up for McGregor.
Whatever path Conor McGregor takes, though, you can be sure that the world will be watching and thoroughly entertained.