Former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor is expected to return this summer, and the armchair matchmaking has been rampant.
McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) has been on the shelf since a second straight TKO loss to Dustin Poirier. At UFC 264 in July 2021, McGregor was shut down after one round with a broken leg. Poirier also stopped McGregor with punches at UFC 257 in January 2021.
But eight months later, McGregor has been hinting at a summer return, including hinting at Bellator 275 in his home city of Dublin that he may just be fighting for a UFC title in his first fight back.
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Lightweight champion Charles Oliveira takes on challenger Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in early May. And UFC president Dana White recently said presumed No. 1 contender Islam Makhachev will get rebooked against Beneil Dariush. So the timing, in theory, could be right for a mid-to-late summer return for McGregor to fight the Oliveira-Gaethje winner.
If that happens, longtime UFC color commentator Joe Rogan and fellow analyst and former middleweight champion Michael Bisping think it would be “kind of crazy.”
“When Dana said that Makhachev now has to fight Beneil Dariush before he can fight for the title, I think that sets up a Conor fight (for the title). I think that’s probably why he really did it,” Rogan said on his podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” this past week. “It’s kind of crazy.”
Bisping concurred, but said it might be in the UFC’s best interests, financially, for McGregor to come back for a title fight.
“It’s wild, but if you owned the company, would you want that to happen? You probably would. Let’s be honest,” Bisping said.
McGregor won the interim featherweight title in July 2015. He unified the 145-pound belt with a 13-second knockout of longtime champ Jose Aldo later that year. In November 2016, he became a two-division champ with a TKO of Eddie Alvarez.
But things have been mostly bleak for the Irishman since then. After a massive payday boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in August 2017, McGregor tried to regain the lightweight title he was stripped of against Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018. He was submitted, then part of a huge post-fight brawl that got him suspended.
After a 40-second stoppage of Donald Cerrone in January 2020, he had his back-to-back TKO losses to Poirier in 2021. He’s also had his name in the news more than a few times for outside-the-cage legal issues.
But with stoppage losses in three of his past four fights, there certainly would be a camp of reasonable size that would say McGregor was undeserving of a title shot beyond just the power of his name as a big pay-per-view draw for the UFC, which is what Bisping alluded to.
Still, Bisping and Rogan acknowledged McGregor’s threat in the standup game means he could put just about anyone away with the right shot. So giving him a title fight against the Oliveira-Gaethje winner could result in something many people would consider unthinkable: McGregor as a UFC champ once again.
“I’m just saying there’s potential that Conor comes back, beats Charles Oliveira and becomes champion again,” Bisping said. “I don’t think I could deal with the world if that happened. … But it might happen.”
“If Conor connects on anyone’s mug, you never know,” Rogan said.
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