Conor McGregor's first fight back is crucial for the UFC and there is only one bout which makes sense

Alex Rea 5/09/2017
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Conor McGregor has settled his business with boxing, likely banking $90million from his defeat to Floyd Mayweather.

The digits generated from the event are trending towards the billion-dollar mark and ultimately the fight will be viewed as nothing more than a transaction.

Indeed, the Irishman had no real right to be in the squared circle because his place of work resides in the cage.

And in the Octagon there is some unfinished business to attend to.

The UFC has a storied history of classic trilogies and either December 30 or 2018 will see another iconic rivalry added to the list because McGregor’s next opponent is a simple choice – it’s Nate Diaz.

The Irishman’s admirable performance against Mayweather had some sections of the media pinning their hopes on a return to the ring but the talk is nonsense because only the Diaz fight makes sense.

In terms of pay-per-view attractions, the UFC has hit the poverty line and McGregor is their only real bankable asset.

With the Mayweather clash reportedly amassing a global PPV audience of 6.5million, a fraction of that viewership will likely be buying a McGregor boxing bout again.

The UFC simply can’t afford his first fight back to have an anticlimactic feel and right now anyone at 155lbs – the division McGregor rules – falls into that category.

Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee scrap for the interim lightweight belt at UFC 216 next month but neither are close to reaching the PPV potential needed to entice McGregor, though that could change come October 7.

Looking at the landscape now, McGregor-Diaz III is the only sensible option. The backdrop is in place already and competitively the pair are tied at one apiece, McGregor claiming the rematch at UFC 202 after being submitted at UFC 196.

Fans are already invested and to the new ones segwaying into MMA from the Mayweather fight, it’s a narrative easy to sell and simple to pick up.

The guarantee of interest equates to a guarantee of PPV sales and no other fight at 155lbs offers that.

Of course, McGregor could move up to 170lbs and challenge for the unprecedented feat of a third belt but the logjam is bad enough as it is.

Even the Diaz clash presents its own problems. Indeed, the winner of Lee and Ferguson will naturally ascend to an undisputed title shot but the contextual element of Diaz could see him jump the queue.

And what if he wins?

The 32-year-old hasn’t fought since his defeat to McGregor in August 2016 and hasn’t shown any interest in changing that.

Only the trilogy would bring him back to the Octagon and a win would likely be the last we see of him because according to his boxing coach Richard Perez, he’s looking to be paid big to face McGregor.

“At least $20 million, $30 million,” he told Submission Radio when asked how much it would
take.

“Come on. UFC’s making a whole lot of money, a whole lot of money and they’re pocketing it.

“They’re giving more to McGregor, so it’s not fair because it takes two in that ring to draw a crowd – I mean, a good two fighters.”

That figure might be the starting point of the negotiations and in reality they’ll meet somewhere in the middle. But the derision Diaz received from that figure being thrown out is misplaced.

He is taking advantage of the situation and he is in the perfect position to get the big money fight.

At the end of the day, that’s just good business and McGregor knows a thing or two about that.

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Man United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic compares himself to UFC star Conor McGregor

David Cooper 26/08/2017
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Conor McGregor has been compared to Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic – by the Swede himself.

The Irishman makes his boxing debut in a megafight with Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on Sunday (07:00 UAE time) and taekwondo black belt and MMA fan Ibrahimovic has backed McGregor to shock the world.

The striker recently agreed a new one-year deal to stay at Old Trafford having been initially released following a serious knee injury.

Speaking about the fight to Sport Bible, the 35-year-old said: “Here you have a guy that has made a career out of many years and that is Mayweather.

“And then you have the other guy that has made a career in a short time, but he made himself a big name.

“Me as a huge fan of the MMA, I see this fight. I don’t know. It can go both ways. Either what people predict that Mayweather will win easy, which I don’t believe.

Which knee? @azsportswear #azbyzlatan

A post shared by IAmZlatan (@iamzlatanibrahimovic) on

“Conor has a power he can knock you out from every angle. And he has a confidence, like me.

“He is the Ibrahimovic of martial arts and I’m McGregor of the football world.

“So I see him with his confidence. He will win. Because he believes in himself so much and like I say, in everything you do the mental part is 50 percent.

“If you have the mental, the head, you can do it and achieve. And then at the same time he’s skillful, he is the one he is. So I believe in Conor!”

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UFC stars share their predictions for Mayweather vs McGregor

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UFC lightweight world champion Conor McGregor will step out of the Octagon and into the boxing ring, as he meets five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather in a 12-round super welterweight boxing match.

Ahead of the unprecedented event, a selection of fighters from the UFC roster share their thoughts on what is set to be one of the biggest fights in combat sports history.

DAN HARDY, UFC WELTERWEIGHT AND COMMENTATOR

“There’s always a possibility when you have punching power like Conor McGregor but we don’t know how that left-hand will land when he has boxing gloves on. Floyd Mayweather doesn’t think offensively, he thinks defensively and McGregor is the opposite. Mayweather is the best the world, so there are going to be traps that McGregor will need to avoid.

“The Irishman needs to use a lot of feigns so he can draw those attacks out of Mayweather before he falls for them. It’s the element of unpredictability that McGregor brings to the table that intrigues me most. That’s what makes this fight so interesting.”

MICHAEL BISPING, UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION

“I’m not saying it’s a mismatch because Conor is an amazing fighter but Floyd is 49-0 and Conor has never boxed before. Conor doesn’t move like a boxer though. His unorthodox style might well be his biggest advantage in this fight.”

AMANDA NUNES, UFC WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION

“I think it will be an awesome fight. Anything can happen. I think Conor can win within the first three rounds maybe. I think he can beat Mayweather”.

JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK, UFC WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT CHAMPION

“Of course, Mayweather is one of the greatest athletes and he is one of the best boxers of all time but Conor’s mental game is on a different level. He can win. King Conor”.

ALISTAIR OVEREEM #1 UFC HEAVYWEIGHT 

“I think you can tell that the fans are more on McGregor’s side. I think Mayweather has something unlikable about him but he is a formidable boxer, with a great record and I’m looking forward to the fight. I’m a UFC fighter so of course I’m going for Conor. It would be awesome if he could cause an upset.”

FABRICIO WERDUM, #2 UFC HEAVYWEIGHT

“Mayweather wins for sure. I think in the fight Mayweather will play with Conor. I don’t see Conor landing a single punch.”

EDDIE ALVAREZ, #3 UFC LIGHTWEIGHT 

“I think that a lot of boxing fans are looking at Conor like he has never boxed and they are writing him off like he has never boxed. He can box though, so he understands boxing. His chance will be in the first four rounds and I think that Conor can put Floyd away and land a punch.

“If it goes past the fourth round and gets into the fifth, sixth, seventh and it becomes a technical boxing match, I think it could look one sided and Floyd could win by TKO. Anything before that, though, is Conor’s time.”

KEVIN LEE, #7 UFC LIGHTWEIGHT

“I think that Floyd is not just a better boxer but a smarter fighter, a championship level fighter. He is the better boxer but sometimes being better just isn’t enough because Conor will hit him with some unpredictable shots. Floyd has never fought a fighter like Conor or someone with that type of movement. Floyd is preparing well though and with the right game plan, comes the victory”.

AL IAQUINTA #11 UFC LIGHTWEIGHT

“Conor has got the ability to surprise a lot of people. He is fighting Floyd Mayweather though, who is the best of the best. Defensively, I think Mayweather can slow the fight down. He can make it a decision, avoid getting hit and make it look easy. I think that’s probably how it will go.”

GUNNAR NELSON, #11 UFC WELTERWEIGHT

“I’m obviously with Conor. His style is completely different to what Mayweather has ever faced and it will be a big problem for him. I’m looking forward to seeing Conor landing that left hand. It will be sooner rather than later – within the first three rounds”.

JOE DUFFY, UFC LIGHTWEIGHT

“I think Conor’s only real chance could be his unpredictability. Mayweather has struggled with more awkward opponents so if Conor can bring a more awkward style to the table, that maybe Mayweather hasn’t seen, and maintain that for 12 rounds, that would be his only glimmer of hope for me”.

STEVIE RAY, UFC LIGHTWEIGHT

“I think McGregor will get inside Mayweather’s head and he is going to shock the world. I think he is going to knock him out early. I wouldn’t be surprised though if it goes the full distance and Mayweather wins. My prediction is McGregor to win via TKO”.

PAUL CRAIG, UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT

“Originally, I thought Mayweather was going to destroy him. He is an untouched boxer and is 49-0. One of the best boxers ever. The more I watch McGregor, though, he draws you in and makes you believe he has that ability, so my opinion has changed. I think the fight will be 100 miles an hour from the first bell and McGregor will get the victory”.

PAUL FELDER UFC LIGHTWEIGHT

“I think it’s good for MMA fighters, especially if Conor can go in there – win lose or draw – and put on a show. If he wins then MMA is going to be sitting on a crown and Conor will be the king. You have to give the advantage to Floyd because of his boxing experience but I’m rooting for McGregor. If I had to bet I would say it will be a decision for Mayweather but I’m hoping Conor wins.”

EMIL MEEK, UFC WELTERWEIGHT

“Mayweather is the better boxer but McGregor has the reach, he is younger, hungrier and he is a southpaw. There are lot of if’s and but’s, but one punch from McGregor can be enough to end the fight”.

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