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Only solution to McGregor conundrum

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Conor McGregor knocked out Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds in epic return to the UFC octagon

What next for Conor McGregor?Source:AFP

This week Conor McGregor plans to sit down for dinner with UFC president Dana White and former CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, sip some whiskey and start hashing out plans for what promises to be an enormous 2020 for the reborn MMA superstar.

McGregor has endless options after re-announcing himself as the biggest name in the game with a 40-second TKO win against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 and is ready to talk turkey.

“Lorenzo gets back in from Panama on Tuesday, so … I’ll go for dinner and a toast with Lorenzo and Dana,” McGregor said. “I’m sure we’ll chat about it then and see what’s what. I’ll be ready.”

But while there are many options, the conundrum for McGregor and the UFC is there’s no clear consensus on who his next opponent should be.

White was emphatic about booking a rematch with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov but finding a time and a place won’t be easy.

Nurmagomedov has a title defence against dangerous contender Tony Ferguson in April and it would be foolish to make any plans until that fight happens.

The Dagestani is also a strict observer of Ramadan, which rules him out from making a quick turnaround if he was to defeat Ferguson. So a McGregor date would likely have to be in the second half of the year and McGregor has indicated he doesn’t want to wait that long.

Then comes finding a location. McGregor wants to fight Nurmagomedov in Moscow, fantasising a Rocky 4-like victory in hostile territory.

White, as he does with all fights of this magnitude — and he thinks Nurmagomedov-McGregor II will be the biggest event in the sport’ss history — would prefer it’s in Vegas. But Nurmagomedov isn’t on the best terms with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, feeling aggrieved at how he was punished in the wild aftermath to his first fight against McGregor.

That leaves either New York or a stadium show in the UK on White’s list. But the UFC traditionally heads to Madison Square Garden in November — a long wait — and McGregor quickly rejected the idea of fighting in England or Wales instead of in front of his home Irish fans.

READ: Jaw-dropping detail in Conor photo

READ: Mayweather announces McGregor fight

Conor McGregor is back in business.

Conor McGregor is back in business.Source:AP

Very much about creating historic events while chasing new frontiers in the sport, McGregor didn’t seem overly enthused about the idea of facing Nurmagomedov next.

“The lightweight title will be there,” he said. “That will come back around, that shot. I’m certainly not going to (wait) if this fight (between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson) does go ahead — sit out and wait through holidays, injuries and all this type of thing that goes with it.”

If White is determined to book the rematch and it can only happen in the second half of 2020 he will have to find a way to keep McGregor content.

There’s a range of options in the UFC in the interim.

Jorge Masvidal has become incredibly popular with MMA fans in the past 12 months and is their pick. But White plans to have Masvidal fight against Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title, a bout which can’t happen for a couple of months at least because of injuries to both fighters.

It feels like another wait McGregor won’t want to accept.

Lightweight contender Justin Gaethje is another name popular with fight fans but probably wouldn’t do the same numbers McGregor and the UFC could do with other match-ups and White hasn’t shown great interest in the idea.

A trilogy fight with Nate Diaz would be a solid stop-gap, but the Californian is coming off a loss to Masvidal in which he took a fair bit of damage and White said he had “no idea” what the Stockton native wanted to do next. McGregor and Diaz may never find the perfect moment to meet for the third time but it doesn’t feel right just now.

Which leaves one option that will make some cringe but may be the only way White can keep McGregor happy while they both wait for Nurmagomedov.

Floyd Mayweather.

The never-retired boxing legend was blowing up White’s phone after watching McGregor’s performance on Sunday and posted this image to Instagram.

He’s been in regular dialogue with White about working together again after the financial success of his crossover bout with McGregor in 2017 and at age 42 must surely be keen to do a rematch sooner rather than later.

“That Floyd, he’s a funny man, that Floyd,” McGregor said. “We’ll see what happens. The discussions are always on going. They never stop. You know Floyd is going through money fast. He’s far from retired, and that rematch will happen at some stage.”

Hate it or love it, it might be the smartest play for all involved. It will make money — although surely not as much as the first edition — and keep McGregor’s re-established brand as an MMA beast untarnished ahead of a Nurmagomedov rematch.

Let’s just be clear he has no chance of winning.

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