The Ultimate Fighting Championship is the pinnacle of professional Mixed Martial Arts. It’s the most famous promotion, boasts the best fighters and president Dana White is fully committed to making the UFC the biggest sports brand on the planet. The UFC has grown from an interesting combat sports promotion to the biggest worldwide. It attracts millions of followers, billions of dollars in investment, and is live on major TV networks from the US to the UK.
Despite having all that going for it, the UFC still needs one major ingredient: a superstar name who can sell out arena and press conferences the way Conor McGregor once did. The Irishman is a former UFC world champion and is considered the face of the UFC. Notorious has claimed many times to be bigger than the promotion that made him famous, and it’s difficult to argue against that venue, even with Conor in retirement.
There have been whispers McGregor could be on his way back to the octagon in 2024, and we may see him live at UFC 294 this weekend. The Ultimate Fighting Championship roadshow heads to the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, where Islam Makhachev defends his lightweight UFC championship belt against challenger Alexander Volkanovski in the main attraction.
All eyes on Conor
McGregor is a regular feature at the biggest and best UFC promotions and often appears ringside at major boxing events. The fighting Irishman made his presence felt at ringside during Anthony Joshua’s knockout win over Robert Helenius at the O2 Arena, London, in August. That sparked a debate over his future and whether he’ll return to the UFC octagon or boxing ring.
McGregor’s mixed martial arts CV shows he claimed 22 wins from 28 fights, including 19 by knockout. He relied on an all-action approach to take opponents out of their comfort zone and used punches and kicks to end the fight early. McGregor suffered six losses in the octagon, four by submission, and two KO defeats. Looking closely at his fight card, we notice Conor lost his last two and three of four.
McGregor’s most recent defeat in the octagon came against long-term rival Dustin Poirier. Conor’s long-awaited comeback and third meeting with Diamond Dustin ended in round one after the beaten man suffered a damaged leg, which rendered him unable to continue. The fight doctor stopped the bout, saving Conor from taking any further and unnecessary punishment.
Return to boxing on the cards
Since losing to Poirier in Las Vegas more than two years ago, McGregor has been recovering and considering his future. The damage to his leg suggested he had bitten off more than he could chew in the octagon, and the wear and a career spent at the pinnacle of the sport had taken its toll. Fighting with an injured or untested leg is dangerous, leading some to suggest he’d be better returning to professional boxing.
McGregor fought only once in a pro boxing ring, facing Floyd Mayweather in the American’s final fight. Mayweather won that contest with a tenth-round TKO in Vegas, moving his CV to 50-0-0. He may have lost his boxing debut, but going ten rounds with the best fighter of his generation is no mean feat, and fans believe he has plenty more to offer the sport. Returning to boxing would be easier on his injured leg than climbing back into the octagon to complete a UFC turnaround.
Conor is keen on renewing his professional boxing license, and the MMA star told fans he’d love to face Mayweather in a rematch. Floyd would likely be willing to renew rivalries with a man he beat convincingly, and the MMA support always seems keen to see their best fighters face the biggest names from the noble art. But would boxing fans like to see McGregor vs. Mayweather II? That’s unlikely, given Conor did little of note when the pair met in 2017.
Conor and Saul clash on Twitter
McGregor took to Twitter to show love for his former opponent, Floyd, tweeting he’d love to do it again in a rematch. Conor loves to create waves in the fight game but may have talked his way into a far more dangerous contest when boasting he landed more punches on Mayweather than most boxers managed, including man of the moment Saul Alvarez. The Mexican didn’t take too kindly to McGregor’s claims and immediately returned fire.
Tweeting McGregor directly, knockout artist Canelo scoffed he’d only need one hand to beat Conor and wouldn’t require too many punches to get the job done in style. The response from the multi-weight boxing world champion caused a flurry of activity on social media, with fans seemingly eager to see McGregor face Alvarez in the boxing ring. Will that fight come to fruition, or is it little more than McGregor making mischief?
That remains unclear, but many boxing purists fear what might happen if the clash goes ahead. Boxing followers feel Floyd carried Conor through their meeting in Las Vegas, putting on a show, steering clear of trouble, and showcasing his skills before taking the Irishman out in round ten. It’s unlikely the Mexican would be so generous and sporting.
Canelo’s 65% KO average
Alvarez is the pound-for-pound king of modern boxing, with a stunning 65% knockout ratio from 64 fights. He has 60 wins, two draws, and a pair of defeats, losing only to Mayweather and Dmitri Bivol, with the latter coming at light heavyweight.
Saul was last in action, beating Jermell Charlo on points in Las Vegas last month. The Mexican now has few credible challenges unless he’s willing to go back up in weight and face the top names from super middleweight and light heavyweight.
If he has fought and beaten all realistic opponents in and around his weight category, a crossover fight with the biggest name in the UFC could be the next move. With Alvarez publically mocking McGregor, the ball is now in the Irishman’s court.
What is his next move?
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