It would be a massive anti-climax if Conor McGregor match-up prediction comes true 4 years ago

It would be a massive anti-climax if Conor McGregor match-up prediction comes true

It's pretty obvious what fight Conor McGregor should take next.

As UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor has the obligation to either defend his strap or vacate it.

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McGregor has only fought once in the UFC's 155 lb division, has never defended a belt in his life and has been absent from the Octagon for nearly a full calendar year. If he takes any fight other than a defence against a legitimate contender next, it would be difficult for the promotion not to strip him.

Settling the series with bitter rival Nate Diaz appears to be leading the race to be McGregor's return bout, but unifying the championship is the obvious next step after that.

In UFC 216's headliner, streaking lightweights Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee will slug it out for the interim belt and if that golden strap doesn't represent a guaranteed crack at McGregor's throne, what's the point of it?

Ali Abdelaziz, manager of undefeated lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, believes that McGregor won't fight the winner of UFC 216's main event. He made this claim on a recent appearance on the MMA Hour.

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"You know for god damn sure Conor is not fighting Tony Ferguson, he's not fighting Khabib. This is fact. He's not fighting these guys."

Another match-up that Dana White has been hyping for yonks is McGregor vs Nurmagomedov in the lion's den of Russia. However, the Dagestani fighter's manager believes that 'the Eagle' is merely being used as a pawn to promote 'the Notorious'.

"At the end of the day, Conor is very, very smart businessman and he has a good team behind him and the UFC is very smart. Why the hell this guy bring millions and millions of dollars and have him go fight somebody like Khabib who is going to take his ass down for five rounds and beat his ass?"

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Abdelaziz expects the UFC to orchestrate some way for McGregor to avoid fighting contenders with stark advantages in the grappling department such as Ferguson, Lee and Nurmagomedov. Out of all the fighters at the business end of that division, he believes McGregor is most likely to fight Justin Gaethje.

"I will see Conor fighting Justin Gaethje before fighting Ferguson or Khabib. There's a reason behind that. He will fight Justin Gaethje before them because he's going to stand up with him. He's not going to try to take him down. He's not going to exploit his weakness."

Gaethje is a tough match-up for anyone. He's an undefeated former WSOF world champion with 18 wins, 16 of which have been finishes. However, his biggest criticism is that he's too hittable. The man pays no heed to defence and actually embraces biting down on the mouthpiece and stepping straight into the fire.

On paper, it would be a very favourable match-up for McGregor. Although the knockout artist would have to get past himself Eddie Alvarez first. Gaethje will take on 'the Underground King' once the current season of The Ultimate Fighter wraps up.

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Conor McGregor

All three of McGregor's losses in MMA have come by way of submission, which is why Abdelaziz sees his jiu-jitsu game as 'amateur'.

"He's a great striker, but he's a white belt on the ground. He has no jiu-jitsu. Maybe he has some, but not compared to Khabib or Ferguson. He's a world champion, you've got to respect him, but he's a world champion from knocking people out, not by submitting people. Every time you see him go to the ground, he taps to somebody and that's okay because he's a great striker."

Aside from his first war with Diaz, McGregor has won every standing battle in MMA he's ever been involved in. Abdelaziz doesn't think he's going to try to mess with that winning formula by testing himself against the top grapplers in the division.

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"He's winning with it. You've got to give him respect. He's too smart, man. I would see Artem fighting Khabib before Conor (laughs)."

To be fair, Artem Lobov isn't one to turn down a fight offer. He'd probably jump at the opportunity to fight Nurmagomedov.