The UFC has had a great year so far and is one of the few sports to thrive amidst the ongoing pandemic. The promotion has also seen its fair share of fights canceled and fighters falling sick as a result of the virus.
Some fighters have cemented their spots at the top of their divisions while others have been questioned about how much they have left in the tank.
With more than half a year left, let's take a look at five dream fights that the UFC needs to book in 2021.
#5 Khamzat Chimaev vs Nick Diaz
There have been talks about a fight between Nick Diaz and Khamzat Chimaev since the latter proposed a fight between himself and the Stockton native. In a recent interview with MMA Junkie, Khamzat Chimaev expressed his interest in taking on Nick Diaz or even his brother Nate.
Questioning Diaz's reputation as a gangster, Chimaev told MMA Junkie:
“This is MMA, this is a sport. Who is the gangster here? Gangster is other things. People kill each other. Maybe in this game, he is a gangster. You can say like that. I grow up in the war, brother. This is bulls—t for me, somebody’s a gangster. No, I’ve seen many things in my life."
"For me, nobody is a gangster. I’m coming back and we kill somebody, smash somebody. Now we have Diaz. I don’t know, both maybe someday? Both brothers. We’re going to see who is the real gangster. Chechen gangster is better than Stockton gangster," added Chimaev.
Chris Taylor from BJ Penn.com then reported that Nick Diaz had formally been offered a fight against Chimaev.
However, Nick Diaz's manager Kevin Mubenga has now said that Diaz won't be facing Chimaev for his UFC comeback. According to Mubenga, the Chechnyan hasn't yet earned the right to fight someone of Diaz's caliber.
Although Nick Diaz is an established name in MMA, he hasn't fought in six years and his last win dates back to 2011. Meanwhile, Khamzat Chimaev has amassed a perfect 9-0 record and could certainly provide an exciting contest against the Stockton native.
#4 Henry Cejudo vs UFC bantamweight champion
Former two-division champion Henry Cejudo has suddenly sprung into the UFC bantamweight title picture after alluding to a return in a recent interview. Triple C vacated his title at UFC 249 after successfully folding Dominick Cruz within two rounds.
Making an appearance on ESPN's Sports Nation, Henry Cejudo said:
“I would personally like to line up both Petr Yan and Aljamain Curling-Sterling-Silver at the same time. You guys stay tuned, ‘Triple C’ is coming back! What’s up?”
Petr Yan put his bantamweight title on the line against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259 but an illegal knee from the champion brought an abrupt end to the bout. For the first time in the UFC, the challenger, Aljamain Sterling, was crowned the new champion via disqualification.
Henry Cejudo has previously paved the way for a potential fight by taking jibes at Sterling for overplaying his injury.
#3 Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko 3
Both fighters have previously met on two occasions, with the Lioness emerging victorious twice. Shevchenko undoubtedly gave Nunes some of the toughest fights of her career.
With Valentino Shevchenko now running through the 125-lbs division, which included a dominant win over Jessica Andrade at UFC 261, a trilogy fight with Amanda Nunes certainly will be an exciting contest.
However, UFC president Dana White has hinted that the fight might not come to fruition in the near future. Still agreeing to work on it if both parties are interested, Dana White told MMA Junkie:
“If they both come to me and they both want to do it, then whatever – I’ll make it happen. But it’s not something I’m thinking about.”
#2 Conor McGregor vs Kamaru Usman
Conor McGregor sparked the idea of a potential fight against Kamaru Usman after the Nigerian successfully defended the UFC welterweight title for the fourth time against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261. Suggesting a potential fight against Usman in the future, Conor McGregor wrote on Instagram:
"Usman even copying my shots now. Am I to fight this guy at some stage? I think so. Can’t be copying my words and my shots and not get a smack for it. I like 170. It’s mine soon."
Not one to back down, Kamaru Usman responded on Twitter:
"Except when I touch you at 170, they go out. They don’t even go out at 155 anymore for you. I finish people. You get finished."
Since then, the two have gone back and forth at each other, hinting at a potential matchup in the future. Even though McGregor has lost twice in his last three outings, a matchup between the UFC's biggest star and the number two P4P fighter is always intriguing.
#1 Jon Jones vs Francis Ngannou
There have been talks about a blockbuster fight between the two since Ngannou won the heavyweight title at UFC 260. However, Jon Jones' much anticipated heavyweight debut seems to have been pushed back due to pay disputes between the UFC and the former light-heavyweight champion.
When Jones demanded $10 million for the superfight, the UFC called his bluff and started working on a match involving Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis instead.
But there is still some hope of a fight materializing as the two keep taking digs at each other.
Talking about his hopes for the mega-fight on his return to the UFC, Jonny Bones told Fight Hype:
"I think it’s gonna happen. I think the UFC eventually will do the right thing. I think this is one of the greatest fights of our generation and it would be really sad if it weren’t to happen. I believe that it will. It would be a real tragedy [if it didn’t happen]. It will happen."