Conor McGregor is MMA’s biggest star. But McGregor’s next fight is simply an absolute must-win.
There is simply no denying either that after his record pay-per-view main event against Khabib Nurmagomedov last year. Couple that with his rousing success in boxing versus Floyd Mayweather, and ‘The Notorious’ is the most bankable crossover name in combat sports. He deserves that title because few if any MMA stars have attracted a following like he has.
You could argue Ronda Rousey did, but she’s gone. The infamous whiskey-slinging knockout artist from Dublin is still here. Millions of fight fans follow his every move feverishly on social media. You can hardly blame them. McGregor’s fast lifestyle of cash, cars, boats, and mansions is the stuff most only dream of. Ireland’s favorite son still has the fight game in the palm of his hand, at least right now.
Yet you could argue there are cracks beginning to form. ‘The Notorious’ one, for all his fame and glory, has not won a fight since November 2016. A streak like that would derail all but the most infamous fighter’s hype. To put that in perspective, the biggest star in the fight game has not had a win since he knocked out then-champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. Think about how much is changed in the UFC since then. Jose Aldo was the featherweight champion. Michael Bisping was the middleweight champion.
Perhaps what’s worse is that McGregor’s recent fights weren’t that competitive. He was always going to lose to one of boxing’s all-time greats in his first professional boxing match. Most expected it. They should have. The one-sided nature of his fight against ‘The Eagle’ is much more concerning, even if the champion has beaten everyone else he’s fought in MMA. It showed McGregor isn’t the lightweight force many thought he was when he held a title he would never defend.
Regardless, the options for ‘The Notorious” next fight are many. They should be. He could face current frontrunner Cowboy Cerrone, longtime rival Nate Diaz, Khabib in an immediate rematch, or even outside shot Anderson Silva.
However, no matter which high-profile opponent he agrees to fight next, he simply has to win. Going three years without a win as the UFC’s biggest star is just ridiculous. If he gets finished again it will be even worse. I’m by no means a McGregor hater; what he has done for the sport in terms of mainstream exposure has been unparalleled. But his record in his last five fights is 2-3 (including the foray into boxing). All three losses were by TKO and submissions. Many believe his second fight with Nate Diaz could have gone the other way.
McGregor needs to get back on track in the worst way. He’d probably still be the biggest star in MMA with yet another loss. How long can he really sustain that, however? Whispers that he’s just there to collect another massive paycheck would get infinitely louder if he lost. And it’s just a bad look for the UFC.
The man brings eyeballs even if what he does is often controversial. He re-defined the fight game in that regard, for better or worse. But when the dust is settled, this is combat and you have to win fights to stay relevant. Well, scratch that. You have to win fights to stay at the top. One more loss and McGregor just won’t be there.