Conor McGregor might still be the biggest star in the UFC, but he is rapidly falling from grace when it comes to being recognized as one of the greatest fighters on the planet. It could be ring rust or simply the fact that the game has evolved in his absence, or even due to the lack of motivation, but Conor McGregor just doesn't look like the all-conquering warrior he once used to be.
Conor McGregor has done it all in the fight game. He's the first person in UFC history to become a simultaneous two-division champion. He holds the record for the quickest KO ever in a title fight and knockout victories in three different divisions. Conor McGregor was also the first person from the MMA world to transcend the sport and step inside the boxing ring.
Conor McGregor's boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather earned him a fortune that few can witness over the course of their lives. Soon enough, McGregor had his own whisky brand, fitness program, clothing and apparel brand, and various other businesses to keep him busy.
It probably became difficult for Conor McGregor to keep up the same level of training he used to before fighting Mayweather since he got involved in a lot of other things. There were just too many distractions. It became apparent when he returned after two years away from the sport to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018. Conor McGregor looked rusty and was dominated for most of the fight.
When he did return again in 2020, two years after the fight with Khabib, to destroy Donald Cerrone in a welterweight clash, it seemed as if he was still as dangerous as ever. But what we overlooked was the fact that Cerrone was on the wane at the time. Cerrone couldn't put up the kind of fight that the top contenders in the lightweight division could do against McGregor.
So when Dustin Poirier put McGregor to sleep at UFC 257 back in January 2021, it came as a shock to many. McGregor was knocked out for the first time in his life. Kudos to him for picking himself up, dusting himself off, and immediately getting back on the grind, preparing for a rematch that was to take place in six months from then.
However, there was no change in the Irishman's fortunes this time around either. Instead, he ended up breaking his tibia and fibula, and is now sidelined for at least the rest of the year. As he looks to recover and return to the octagon, we assess whether he can ever scale the unfathomable heights he once reached.
How can Conor McGregor rise to the top again?
Conor McGregor is still an elite fighter. While he has lost his last three fights in the lightweight division, he's fought the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier. While no man has ever managed to get the better of Khabib inside the octagon, Poirier is the No.1-ranked contender in the lightweight division. So there's no doubt that McGregor has been fighting the absolute best at 155 pounds.
To get back into the title picture or to salvage even some of his mystique and aura, Conor McGregor must first get rid of his losing streak on his octagon return. How can he do that? By making smart moves. We know that McGregor calls his own shots in the promotion and is the biggest money-spinner in the game. He shouldn't have a problem cherry-picking fights when he returns.
Conor McGregor must pick an interesting as well as winnable fight for his next outing because there's a lot at stake. Let's take a look at three smart fights for Conor McGregor to take to end his losing streak.
#3. Rafael dos Anjos
Conor McGregor was originally supposed to fight for the UFC lightweight title against Rafael dos Anjos. After the Brazilian pulled out to injury, the fight never came to fruition. But the rivalry between both men still exists. Even ahead of McGregor's trilogy fight with Dustin Poirier at UFC 264, McGregor and dos Anjos got into an altercation backstage.
With both fighters approaching the twilight stages of their careers, it makes sense for McGregor to ponder fighting dos Anjos on his return. McGregor also said he'd love to fight in Brazil someday, so this will be the perfect opportunity for him to recreate the magic he did when he fought Jose Aldo.
Dos Anjos is a legend but he is not the same fighter he used to be. If McGregor can find his usual rhythm on the feet, the Irishman will likely come out of this one with his hand raised.
#2. Nate Diaz (at lightweight)
After McGregor's rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202, 'The Notorious' megastar clearly stated that if Diaz wants a third fight, he must come down to lightweight. The reason behind this is obvious. 155 pounds is close to McGregor's natural weight and he can make optimum usage of his striking skills in the weight class.
McGregor also won't tire easily at lightweight and is more vulnerable to fatigue as a welterweight because of the extra mass he carries. Diaz will also have to cut a lot of weight and his durability might not be the same at a lower weight class.
If their last two fights are anything to go by, McGregor will get in those meaty left hand shots, and if he manages to conserve his gas tank, he is likely to settle the rivalry with a win. Needless to say, the fight will attract many eyeballs and earn millions in revenue for the promotion, as well as the fighters.
1#. Tony Ferguson
Tony Ferguson is on a horrible losing skid in the UFC, and if there was ever a good time to fight 'El Cucuy', it is now. Ferguson got thoroughly dominated in his last three fights and has to be low on morale heading into his next appearance. Conor McGregor would definitely be classed as the favorite to beat Ferguson in a potential scrap down the line.
With Conor McGregor's superior striking, we may even see Ferguson getting slept inside that octagon because the human body can only absorb so much punishment and Ferguson has been in many wars. His chin is weakened from the damage he's taken over the years and it seems that Ferguson's time as a top-contender is over.
A booking between Ferguson and McGregor would get fans salivating and the press conferences could be expected to be wild. This is a fight that Conor McGregor should definitely consider for his UFC return.
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