Which Potential Opponents are Left for Conor McGregor’s UFC Return?

Conor McGregor UFC
Conor McGregor. Credit: Mike Sloan/Sherdog.com

Conor McGregor’s UFC return seems to be nearing. Given the currently scheduled matchups, he’s running out of dance partners if he’s going to fight this summer.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Conor McGregor compete in the UFC. He’s managed to stay in the news, tweeting at various fighters over recent months. He’s also had his legal issues make their way into people’s social media feeds on a regular basis as well.

Between suspensions, sexual assault allegations, and becoming a whiskey baron, McGregor has been busy since we last saw him at UFC 229. Now that some of those issues are behind him, talk of a UFC return is once again heating up.

There aren’t many available opponents for McGregor at the moment. Some of the previously mentioned options are currently scheduled for bouts with other fighters.

Conor McGregor UFC 229
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Donald Cerrone and Tony Ferguson will be battling at UFC 238. McGregor-rival Nate Diaz is making his long-awaited return at UFC 241 against Anthony Pettis in a welterweight bout. As far as the lightweight title is concerned, a Khabib Nurmagomedov matchup with interim champion Dustin Poirier looks like it’s a go for UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.

With that slate of fights headed our way, what’s left for Conor McGregor’s UFC return later this summer?

Jose Aldo

They’ve only shared the Octagon for 13 seconds, and we think everyone could use a bit more. The duo has history, and a rematch always seemed necessary following the finish of their first bout. Now that we’ve had a few years, why not do McGregor-Aldo 2 this summer?

Both fighters are coming off of losses, and Aldo’s future at featherweight gets less certain with every bout. He’s fought the entire top-five at 145-pounds, except for Brian Ortega. As fun as that matchup sounds, a win for Aldo over Ortega doesn’t do much for his legacy or move him any closer to a title-shot. A win over McGregor on the other hand? That could do wonders.

The talk of Aldo moving up to lightweight isn’t anything new, either. After the loss to Alexander Volkanovski at UFC 237, now seems like as good a time as any.

McGregor’s status in the lightweight rankings is somewhat muddy, given he’s only fought at 155-pounds twice in more than two years. Should Aldo join the weight class, he’d deserve a top-five opponent in his divisional debut. They’d be great measuring sticks for each other, given the current landscape of the division, and the matchup gives the winner a clear spot in the title picture.

Justin Gaethje

If Aldo doesn’t want to move up, or if McGregor isn’t interested in risking evening the series with the Brazilian, Justin Gaethje could be an option.

UFC Philadelphia Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

After dropping back-to-back bouts with Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, the former WSOF champ has tallied back-to-back wins over James Vick and Edson Barboza. The victories have deservedly pushed Gaethje into the top-five in the UFC rankings.

If McGregor wants to fight the highest ranked fighter available at lightweight, Gaethje is his guy. That is, assuming Nurmagomedov-Poirier gets made for UFC 242 in September.

It’s an undeniably fun matchup that would have all of the fireworks a fan could ask for. Gaethje has earned a Performance of the Night or a Fight of the Night bonus in each of his five UFC fights, and we’d bet a bout with McGregor would make it six.

Max Holloway

UPDATE: Looks like Frankie Edgar/Max Holloway are busy this summer as well. Further reducing the options available for Conor McGregor.

Everyone is wondering what UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway is going to do next. A move up to 155-pounds could still be on the cards for the Hawaiian, despite his recent defeat to interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier.

We’d prefer he move up. There isn’t much left for Holloway to accomplish at featherweight. A fresh title contender in Volkanovski emerged from UFC 237, and that twice-canceled bout with Edgar is out there as well. While those are interesting matchups, they’re ultimately just delaying Holloway’s inevitable jump to lightweight.

Similar to Aldo, should Holloway vacate his featherweight belt and join lightweight, gauging his standing in the division would be tough. Yeah, he just lost to Poirier. But his resumé at featherweight is enough to earn him another top-five opponent in his next bout, should he choose to fight at lightweight.

Like McGregor, Holloway is coming off of a loss to a lightweight champion. The duo has history, as well. Even without a belt, McGregor-Holloway 2 could main event any card on the planet. It’s one of the best rematches the promotion can make, and makes sense for both the fighters and the division, right now.

Frankie Edgar

UPDATE: Looks like Frankie Edgar/Max Holloway are busy this summer as well. Further reducing the options available for Conor McGregor.

Frankie Edgar has been playing the waiting game. It makes sense, considering the title picture in the featherweight division has been a bit messy lately. Two canceled Holloway-Edgar bouts, the Holloway-Aldo series, Holloway’s bout with Poirier, and the rising crop of new talent in the division, has put Edgar on the back burner.

Now that Volkanovski did what Edgar has failed to do on multiple occasions, beat Jose Aldo, his claim for a title-shot has a bit more weight than Edgar. We haven’t seen the fan-favorite fight in more than a year, and in that bout he defeated Cub Swanson. An impressive feat for sure, but it’s hard to deny Volkanovski’s recent run.

If Holloway leaves the division, Edgar could step in and fight Volkanovski for the vacated featherweight title. Brian Ortega is out there as well, though. Edgar has shown his commitment to staying patient, and could still end up being rewarded.

If Holloway stays and Edgar is going to have to wait even longer for a title shot, why not return to lightweight? Edgar is at the point in his career where playing gatekeeper for the group of rising stars at featherweight like Volkanovski, Renato Moicano, Zabit Magomedsharipov, and more, seems like a poor usage of an all-time great.

Even if it’s a one-off to fight Conor McGregor, nobody could blame Edgar for risking his standing in the featherweight rankings. He’s been in the 145-pound title picture for several years, but could still be on the outside looking in. Plus, talk of McGregor-Edgar was all the rage for a time. It might sound like a goofy matchup right now, but with the lack of currently available options, and uncertainty surrounding the futures of Aldo and Holloway at featherweight, McGregor-Edgar makes more sense than you’d think.

Let us know who you’d like to see Conor McGregor fight in his UFC return! There aren’t a ton of options left, but there are a few that stand out. Comment below, on Facebook, or reply on Twitter!

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