Whatever way you wanna slice it, UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor performed beyond most people’s wildest expectations, going into the tenth round before being stopped by pound for pound champion Floyd Mayweather.
While the official scorecards had him way down when the fight was stopped, most media and fans had it scored much closer. I actually had him ahead 86-85 at the time the fight was stopped and as we’ve heard, McGregor landed 111 punches versus Mayweather, 30 more than Manny Pacquiao did.
While most fans, along with Dana White and most everyone in the featherweight and lightweight divisions want the ‘Notorious’ One to come back to the UFC and defend his title, McGregor has proved that he can box at an elite level and there will certainly be money fights out there if he so chooses. While most everyone between 147-160 lbs would love the chance to get some of that cash, it’s going to take the right opponent for McGregor to get back in the ring.
So here are five potential opponents for Conor McGregor, ranked from most realistic to least, using the criteria of name value, potential storylines, availability, and overall ability to sell tickets. Yes, we are playing in the realm of ridiculous here, but less try to be a little realistic.
1) Paulie Malignaggi (44-8, 7 KO’s)
Paulie is the obvious number one choice, based on the built-in storylines they have after Paulie was dropped by Conor in sparring, sparking Malignaggi to criticize Conor in every possible platform, and even try to run up on him during the final press conference last week in Las Vegas.
At this point, this will draw because every MMA fan wants to see Conor shut Malignaggi up, and it’s great fight for Conor because Malignaggi is smaller, has less power than an uncharged iPhone, and he’s basically shot as a fighter. At his best, Malignaggi was one of the best movers in the game who flummoxed opponents with excellent footwork and quick combinations. But that guy has been gone for years. He was dominated in his last big fight by Danny Garcia in August 2015 and won three fights after against low-level opposition before stopped by ordinary Brit Sam Eggington. It makes a lot of sense, unless Conor realizes that this isn’t worth his time.
2) Amir Khan (35-4, 19 KO’s)
Khan, the former unified 140 pound champion, has put out the idea of fighting McGregor before, and the matchup does have plenty of attractive elements. First off, is the idea of Britain versus Ireland, a matchup that always sells, especially across the ocean. Khan has been idle since being starched by Canelo Alvarez in May 2016 and has only fought twice in the last three years.
The former Olympic Silver Medalist is thirty years old, but has been in a fair share of wars and has always had a slightly questionable chin, and it’s not out of the question that Conor could find it with one of his big left hands. McGregor would have a size advantage, but Khan still has fast hands and good movement, and might pick Conor apart. Either way, the image of the two of these fighting in front of tens of thousands in a soccer stadium in Britain or Ireland is one that I won’t get out of my head anytime soon.
3) Adrien Broner (33-3, 24 KO’s)
Many found elements of the buildup to Mayweather/McGregor to be tasteless, but that’s nothing compared to what we would get if these two signed on the dotted line. Broner has won titles in four different weight classes, but has drawn the ire of just about everyone in boxing for his lack of work ethic, weight issues, and being a generally bad citizen, wasting an almost prodigious amount of talent. He’s never fought above 147 pounds, but his credentials, image, and the potential for promotion make him a serious dark horse candidate. The press conferences might be better than Mayweather and McGregor, and Broner’s BS might make him the most beatable guy on this list after Malignaggi. I mean, stranger things have happened…like last Saturday.
4) Saul Alvarez (49-1-1, 34 KO’s)
The man known simply to most as Canelo (Cinnamon) is the most dangerous fighter on this list and is unlikely for a couple of reasons. Alvarez is not a clown. He takes the business of boxing very seriously and is the kind of boxer that would consider fighting an MMA fighter to be beneath him. He’s also the only fighter on this list bigger than Conor and has serious knockout power, and Dana White isn’t a fool. But this fight makes sense simply because it makes dollars-a lot of them.
Alvarez is the biggest ticket seller in boxing and the most popular fighter in Mexico, the most boxing crazy nation in the world. The combination of Mexican and Irish fans would be a bonanza for Las Vegas. Also, this fight would be a lot more likely if Canelo losses to Gennady Golovkin on September 16. Alvarez would need a high-priced get well win, and Conor McGregor might be just what the doctor ordered.
5) Oscar De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KO’s)
Okay, we are venturing into the realm of crazy here, but this is where we are right now! Conor McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather and did well against him! The world is crazy right now. Yes, Oscar has been retired for almost a decade now and is forty-four years old. But that being said, Oscar is still a star, and McGregor wants to be in the ring with stars. The money on the table would be crazy for any Oscar comeback, let alone against Conor. That would be a bonanza. But also, this one would be personal.
McGregor fighting Mayweather when he did messed with Oscar’s business, as Golden Boy Promotions promoted a fight on HBO in Carson, California that got no mainstream pub and has overshadowed what should be a mega fight between Canelo and GGG. This was would be HUGE. And you know what, at this point, would it even be THAT strange. This is 2017. Literally, anything, ANYTHING is possible.