As the UFC’s biggest star, the rumor mill is constantly spinning regarding who McGregor’snext opponent will be. And as the star who generates by far the most revenue—in a phenomenon that was dubbed by McGregor himself as ‘red panty’ night—the Irishman is never short of willing opponents.
As evidence of the ‘McGregor effect’, any time the Irishman is billed for a fight, online sportsbooks are inundated with both hardcore and casual fans alike as they try and lock in the best UFC odds for his bouts. It is this ability to capture the attention of both casual and hardcore fans alike that has given him such star-power in the sport.
However, McGregor’s hopes of another run at the title were thrown into disarray last year following his potentially career-ending injury against Dustin Poirier in the third instalment of their trilogy.
This led toMcGregor’s leg suffering a gruesome injury that would test the stomachs of even the most strong-willed UFC fan. For a fighter for whom lightness on their feet, explosive movement and kicking hadbeen such a big part of their game, McGregor’s prospects of a return to form look increasingly slim.
Despite this, McGregor has already publicly stated his intention to return to the ring as soon as possible and has been teasing training footage for quite some time—although some of these training clips have been heavily criticized.
With so much competition in the lightweight division, and with a return to featherweight not feasible given McGregor’s new bulky physique, we can’t help but wonder who his next opponent is likely to be.
This is a particularly interesting question given the fact that McGregor has not had a win in the UFC octagon since he disposed of Cowboy Cerrone in January 2020, with his last win before that coming in November 2016 when he handily beat Alvarez for the lightweight Championship strap.
It is this spotty streak that has fans and analysts alike questioning who his next opponent should be. Certainly, if he intends to make a return to lightweight, McGregor has no legitimate claim to having earned a title shot, with the lightweight division currently being a veritable murderer’s row of worthy talent.
With that said, however, let’s take a look at some of his potential future opponents when he finally makes his return to the UFC octagon.
Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Olivera
As the most recent lightweight champion, Charles Olivera is arguably the most likely opponent. However, given that Olivera was stripped of his championship belt following a controversial weight cutting mishap in his last fight, the division has been thrown somewhat into disarray.
Given that he has not had a win in this division since November 2016 when he won the belt from Alvarez, there is little argument that McGregor is deserving of a title shot—particularly given the current state of the lightweight rankings.
For the UFC matchmakers, however, the allure of selling millions of PPV tickets might see them gifting McGregor a title shot over his more worthy opponents.
Given that McGregor has now suffered two losses to Poirier, we have little doubt that he will be keen to avenge these losses—something hinted at by McGregor himself in the aftermath of their most recent bout.
Despite this, Poirier seems to have moved on from McGregor, has hinted that he wants to make a run at welterweight rather than facing the Irishman again. With two ‘red panty nights’ under his belt, we can’t say we blame him.
Another strong prospect for McGregor’s return is the former Bellator Champion Michael Chandler, who has been taking the lightweight division by storm since he made the switch to the UFC last year.
Chandler has already had four incredibly explosive fights in the UFC so far, which have generated a considerable amount of attention. Despite losing two of the four bouts, Chandler was arguably dominating the octagon in those two losses before narrowly missing out.
Chandler has already called out McGregor as a potential opponent when he makes his octagon return, even saying he would forgo a run at the title in preference for a bout against him.
In terms of how this fight would play out, McGregor could fare well against Chandler. As an explosive fighter with solid striking and excellent wrestling, there are obvious similarities to Alvarez who McGregor handily disposed of.
Whether or not McGregor wants to take the Chandler fight—either at lightweight or welterweight—rather than staking a claim for the belt, however, remains to be seen. McGregor has already claimed that he would “have a nice knock” off Chandler, which perhaps signals his willingness to face him.