Conor McGregor – Gaming The System 

Conor McGregor
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 18: Conor McGregor prepares for his welterweight bout against Donald Cerrone during UFC246 at T-Mobile Arena on January 18, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Hot off the heels of a blistering performance at UFC 246, Conor McGregor has indicated that he would be interested in pursuing more fights at 170 pounds.

The former UFC Lightweight champion dismissed UFC president Dana White’s analysis that Conor fighting at welterweight was “a bad idea.” In response during a press conference following his knockout of Donald Cerrone, McGregor stated, “I enjoy this division. I like this division. I don’t think they’re that big.”

Comments from head coach John Kavanagh echoed the sentiment. When asked who he’d like to see Conor face-off with next on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour, Kavanagh suggested a name being called for by many fans, but with a twist.

“Justin Gaethje at 170,” Kavanagh said. “That would be my personal preference.” He went on to clarify his reasoning for the choice of weight class, “Neither of them have to cut weight and the goal — I’ll be careful with my words here — the kind of vision is to get that 155-pound belt back so it’s a step towards that.”

No one is going to be quick to tout the merits of cutting weight. But, the notion that neither man would have to cut weight may be deceptive. Many noted a change in body composition for McGregor heading into his bout with Cerrone, looking noticeably larger than usual. Forcing Gaethje to meet him at 170 may mean McGregor has a head start in packing on extra mass which could make all the difference.

Two For The Price of One

However, the most compelling reason that McGregor and his team are continuing to look at the welterweight division is one that you will not hear them mention often — the fact that his wins at welterweight are being “counted” by many fans and analysts as creating a good case for title contention at lightweight.

It is by no means a secret that one of the foremost reasons for McGregor’s focused return is the desire for a rematch with UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov, who submitted McGregor in the 4th round via neck crank in the UFC 229 mega-showdown, remains McGregor’s only unavenged UFC loss.

Coupled with the bad blood that drew millions of fans’ eyes to the event, the rematch is, in Dana White’s mind, the best way forward. “This is a massive fight with global appeal. It’s the fight that you make.”

Nurmagomedov, on the other hand, requires more convincing. He has gone on record to say Conor McGregor would need to win 10 times before he would fight him. His father and head coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, has stated that a rematch with Conor would cost the UFC “$100 million”.

“The Eagle” is currently booked to fight Tony Ferguson on April 18th in the main event of UFC 249. This marks the fifth time the matchup has been scheduled, with injuries plaguing other attempts. Dana White made known Conor’s thoughts on the fight in an interview with TMZ Sports during the build-up to UFC 246 “Here’s the thing — realistically, Conor believes that Khabib [Nurmagomedov] vs. Tony Ferguson will not happen” later adding “Conor wanted to do this fight at 170 because he wants to turn right around and jump right in and fight Khabib if that fight doesn’t happen.”

Nonetheless, with such strong support from the UFC and many of his fans, there appears to be no issue with McGregor’s wins at 170 forging a path for a title shot at 155. This was only further solidified upon the post-UFC 246 update of the UFC’s rankings. The former double champion leapfrogged Justin Gaethje in the lightweight division to take the #3 spot, while simultaneously entering the welterweight rankings at #14.

Star On The Horizon

Another possible matchup for Conor McGregor garnering skeptical excitement is one of 2019’s biggest MMA stars in the form of UFC veteran Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal, whose celebrity is at its peak following spectacular knockouts of Darren Till and Ben Askren, is eyeing a return to the octagon to defend his ceremonial BMF belt. The belt was created as a one-off, with Masvidal stopping former McGregor foe Nate Diaz in the 3rd round of their November fight at Madison Square Garden.

While some analysts have been quick to call the hypothetical matchup in Masvidal’s favor, primarily citing his size advantage, others feel the fight makes sense. The benefits are clear; a fan-friendly stylistic bout featuring two brash talkers, with the added assurance of avoiding any log jams in both the 155 pound and 170-pound divisions.

No matter which opponent The Notorious chooses to step up against, there is no doubt fans will be tuning in around the world to watch McGregor’s season play out.

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