Who's next? Top 5 options for Conor McGregor after quick UFC 246 victory
At UFC 246, Conor McGregor returned and did what he does best - finish a fight with his striking skills. Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone was only able to handle 40 seconds in the Octagon with the former two-division champion.
The UFC's very first event of 2020 saw McGregor's hand being raised once again. He only needed 40 seconds to take out the UFC's all-time winningest fighter in Cerrone.
For the Irishman, it was his first victory inside the Octagon since he won the UFC lightweight championship in November 2016. That fight being when he flawlessly outstruck Eddie Alvarez en route to a second-round TKO.
Since then, McGregor fought for the title again after being stripped of both the lightweight and featherweight belts. That fight come at UFC 229 in October 2018 against the new champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In round four, the Russian would submit McGregor with a neck crank for his first successful title defense.
After the clear loss and all the bad blood that boiled over, McGregor seemed at a low as he had to serve a suspension for the pair's post-fight antics. During his time away, McGregor also dealt with a plethora of legal issues, some of which allegedly still see him under investigation for sexual assault, according to the New York Times.
However, after putting away Cerrone in the fashion that he did, it already feels like 'The Notorious' is back on top of the world, and with multiple options in front of him going forward.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top five options for the Irishman.
5. Nate Diaz
After becoming rivals for their 2016 bouts, Nate Diaz and McGregor will be forever linked to one another. Because of that, a fight between the two will always feel like it's somewhat of a possibility, no matter the timing.
Their trilogy bout would feel like probably the most realistic fight we could have seen after UFC 246 - if McGregor had lost.Also on rt.com ‘Weak as f*ck’: Former foe Nate Diaz unimpressed with Conor McGregor’s comeback win at UFC 246
Instead, McGregor won in the most impressive fashion possible. Whereas Diaz most recently lost in decisive fashion to Jorge Masvidal at UFC 244 in November.
Essentially, the fight will always be there. But it's hard to imagine it being next.
4. Justin 'The Highlight' Gaethje
In a world of pure logic, Justin Gaethje should be the man that McGregor faces next. Unfortunately for Gaethje, that's not quite the world that the UFC is operating in when it comes to rankings.
Prior to suffering his loss to McGregor, Cerrone had lost via knockout to Gaethje. That coming after a loss to Tony Ferguson. With Cerrone now having lost three in a row, Gaethje has won three in a row.Also on rt.com 'How is he still ranked?' Conor McGregor drops below Justin Gaethje in lightweight rankings, somehow rises in pound-for-pound list
Although he's the rightful next man in line for the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, a Gaethje vs. McGregor fight could happen around that time as it goes down in April.
And if McGregor can defeat Gaethje, he'll have a justifiable case for fighting for the lightweight crown again.
3. 'The Nigerian Nightmare' Kamaru Usman
Obviously, this fight makes absolutely makes no sense what so ever. This fight with Cerrone was only McGregor's third at 170-pounds and he's only fought two people. Neither of which were ranked opponents.
However, McGregor is back in that position of being able to do likely whatever he wants. And he wants to win titles across three divisions.
Because of who he is, he can skip the line and Usman surely wouldn't complain about that as a McGregor fight is guaranteed to be positive for his career aside from the potential fight outcome. In regard to that, it very highly favors him as is.
2. Winner of Khabib 'The Eagle' Nurmagomdov vs. Tony 'El Cucuy' Ferguson
This is what UFC President Dana White wants and he's made it extremely obvious. Even more so after this recent win for McGregor.
Despite his interest in ventures at 170lbs, McGregor still wants that lightweight title back and his chance to get back at his Russian rival, Nurmagomedov. That, of course, depends on if the champion can get through Tony Ferguson.
Either way, we'll see McGregor back at what many agree is his best and most optimal weight class.
1. Jorge 'Gamebred' Masvidal
When it comes to the sport's current biggest stars, McGregor is always at the top. But in his absence, a new star has been born in Jorge Masvidal.
2019's fighter of the year alongside Israel Adesanya won three fights in spectacular fashion. The last being the biggest of the bunch when he fought the aforementioned Diaz for the BMF belt.
Bloodying and battering the Stockton, California native, Masvidal had become an even bigger superstar after his silencing of Ben Askren directly prior.
Even though White is adamant that a Nurmagomedov rematch for McGregor is the biggest fight ever, Masvidal is arguably even bigger in terms of superstar and drawing power.
It's two polarizing figures going at it with potentially fun things on the line like the BMF title. And with Masvidal being the next contender for Usman at welterweight, if McGregor were to beat him then that paves a clear path to his welterweight title shot. Something that would be even bigger than if he just got it next without a fight first.