Aside from Khabib almost tearing his head clean off his shoulders, you suspect that Conor McGregor’s toughest opponent is himself.
The Irishman lacks focus, often seeking money-making opportunities beyond the UFC – hence his boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather and owning his own whisky brand, and arguably lacks discipline too. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that McGregor could start a fight on his own in the Hall of Mirrors.
Will Conor McGregor Regain UFC Gold?
Of course, with his game face on, the 32-year-old is still a box office draw in the UFC and a fearsome striker – for all his shenanigans outside of the Octagon, McGregor is a two-weight world champion and easily inside the top-10 of the pound-for-pound rankings when consistently active.
Ready for war.
— Maxim (@MaximMag) December 14, 2020
But what is his motivation? Where is his hunger? Can a man who is worth an estimated $48 million really summon up the desire to be punched, kicked and grappled on their way to glory?
Maybe Dana White needs to dangle the promise of gold – specifically, the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship – in front of McGregor in order to get the best out of him. All journeys start with a first step, and for the Irishman that will come on January 23 when he is scheduled to take on Dustin Poirier as the headline act of UFC 257.
Could that be the start of a golden 2021 for McGregor?
The Path to Success
The general consensus is that if the Irishman is fit, in shape and focused then he beats Poirier, a hardy but limited fighter who McGregor disposed of inside a single round in their original 2014 encounter.
Those with an inclination to can back McGregor at -227 in the Mr Green betting odds, and it’s worth remembering that these sportsbook prices – determined by some of the sharpest analytical minds around – reflect the probability of something happening. The implied probability of -227 odds is a 69.4% chance of winning, and that shows how likely the Irishman is of having his hand raised at the end of the bout.
So from there, where? If McGregor does defeat Poirier than he would leapfrog his way up the lightweight rankings, and then much would depend on Dana White’s fight-making abilities – would he have McGregor vs Gaethje for the vacant belt, or would he first send the ‘Notorious One’ into battle against Charles Oliveira?
The latter option is fraught with risk. Oliveira is an absolute machine, and while he needed the judges’ cards to secure his victory over Tony Ferguson last time out, remember that he holds the joint-record for most finishes in UFC history – 16 – with Donald Cerrone. The Brazilian also boasts 16 end-of-the-night bonuses, so any scrap with McGregor would be absolute money and an easy sell.
While he wouldn’t turn down a second immediate shot at the title, @Justin_Gaethje believes he should be coming off a win first. Just another reason why he’s a fan favorite.
— MMA On Point (@OnPointMMA) December 11, 2020
However, there is the very real possibility that McGregor wouldn’t come through that fight unscathed, given the outstanding mat skills of Oliveira, and so he may lobby White to put him in with Gaethje right away.
The 32-year-old is an interesting fighter. His MMA career was going nowhere until a couple of victories over Cerrone and Ferguson earned him a scrap with Khabib, which ended in time-honored fashion with the Russian choking Gaethje out inside two rounds.
McGregor vs Gaethje would be a stand-up wrecking ball of a fight, but it’s one that the Irishman would be favorite to win and thus claim the UFC Lightweight Championship from. If he can find his inner hunger, 2021 should be an outstanding year for McGregor inside the Octagon.