Conor McGregor just wants to get back to the business of fighting.
The past 10 months have seen the former two-division UFC champion make all kinds of headlines but usually for all the wrong reasons. An arrest in Miami for smashing and stealing a phone was followed by a pub incident in April where McGregor was caught on video hitting an older patron sitting on a stool.
McGregor took responsibility for his bad behavior but now wants to do what he does best, which is fight inside the UFC Octagon.
Originally, McGregor says he was targeting a fight in July, but he suffered a broken hand in sparring that further delayed his plans to compete again.
“It’s time for me to just get back in. I was ready to go against anyone and I was preparing for the end of July and then [the broken hand] happened,” McGregor told ESPN on Thursday.
“I believe it was leaning towards Justin Gaethje at that time. But the game changes so quick, everyone just comes and goes. It’s a forgetful business. It is a cruel, cruel business. Only for the amount of history I’ve made, the amount of iconic moments that’s happened in my career, they would love to throw me away, discard me. Think of all the other people who have had what I’ve had that’s gone through the trauma and the battles for the fans. That’s what we do it for, we do it for the fans and for the people and then when it’s all said and done, they just discard you and it’s a cruel, cruel business.”
While the Irish superstar already stated that in an ideal situation he would face Khabib Nurmagomedov in a rematch after he fell to the undefeated Russian last year, there are several other fights that would interest him.
One of the biggest potential fights would be a trilogy against Nate Diaz after he and McGregor headlined two of the most profitable pay-per-views of all time in 2016. Diaz returned at UFC 241 after a three-year hiatus and defeated Anthony Pettis in the co-main event.
Afterwards, Diaz called out Jorge Masvidal, who has quickly become one of the most talked about names in the sport following back-to-back knockouts against Ben Askren and Darren Till.
McGregor seems open to fighting either of them, but if Diaz and Masvidal are determined to face each other, he will gladly move on to other options.
“Look we spent almost 50 minutes in an Octagon together. They were intense bouts. Very, very intense bouts. Nate is a crafty individual. He opened up the deck,” McGregor said about Diaz.
“Jorge’s on a two-fight win streak, the game is very forgettable when he didn’t really have a great run in the lightweight division and he’s on a two-fight streak. He was present in the arena, Nate’s a crafty individual but I didn’t feel I was being boxed out. I’ve boxed Nate out in reality. So we’ll see what happens. If he does not want the trilogy bout, no problem. I don’t blame him. Look at the damage, look at the fights, they were intense bouts.”
There are several potential rematches beyond Diaz that also pique McGregor’s interest including his past fight against Max Holloway after they first met in 2013.
Holloway has gone undefeated at featherweight ever since he was defeated by McGregor and the two fighters have engaged in a back-and-forth war of words in recent years. Holloway even ratcheted up the psychological warfare by traveling to Ireland earlier this year after he was invited by Jameson Irish Whiskey, which is a chief rival to McGregor’s own brand, Proper No. 12.
“It’s certainly a fight I’m interested in, young Holloway. It’s not as easy as you think to move up a division and to challenge for a second world title. You saw that with young Max,” McGregor said while referencing Holloway’s loss at lightweight to Dustin Poirier. “I thought him coming over [to Ireland] and doing that was a little cheap, although get your money. If you’re paid to come over and do this by a brand that’s afraid of me and afraid of what I’m doing, that’s OK. But whatever, it is what it is.
“This is another moment where I’m almost reacting to the bait. I need to accept things the way they are but the Holloway bout is certainly a bout I’m interested in. A lot of respect for Max. I truly do. He went through that issue that just kind of got forgotten about but I have a lot of respect for Max. He’s been through the wars, he’s been rushed and rushed and rushed, Max is definitely up there at the top of the list.”
McGregor also mentioned former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar as a fight that would get him excited, although that on seems less likely after the New Jersey native decided to move down to bantamweight for his next fight.
“You know who else is at the top of the list, Frankie Edgar, is also right there, up there at the top of the list. Because he has similarities to Khabib,” McGregor said. “Runs on the back foot, shoots on the single leg. I want these types of similar bouts and also Frankie has been very respectful. Frankie has always been respectful. He said that he wanted to tell his grandkids that he fought Conor McGregor one day and for me to hear that, ask Dana [White], for me to hear that, this is going back many months and I messaged Dana straight away and said that’s the fight to make.
“Even though he lost the belt to Max in a close bout, I don’t care about that. Wins and losses in this game don’t mean anything. It’s the stories that we are all on, the journey that we are all on. That’s why when things get a little more personal, it does hit harder.”
One name that was brought up to McGregor was former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, who has gone undefeated for the past six years and 12 consecutive fights.
Ferguson was previously under the same management team as McGregor but he left them ahead of his last fight citing a conflict of interest with two top-ranked lightweights competing under the same umbrella.
“Tony’s another warrior. I’ve got a lot of respect for Tony, also. We had Tony, Tony was looked after in our stable,” McGregor said. “All our fighters, we have a strong stable of fighters so it was wrong of him to say that, it was wrong of him to turn his back on that.
“I think for Audie [Attar] and the team that were with him constantly and helped build him up and fought for him, I thought it was wrong but Tony’s also in the mix. We’ll see what happens.”
From McGregor’s standpoint, he could face any number of opponents right now but the most important factor for him is just getting back into the Octagon to compete again.
“I’m not going to wait around,” McGregor said. “Whoever. If you’re asking me who, whoever. If Dustin [Poirier] goes and it does it, Dustin. If Nate, Nate. If Jorge [Masvidal]—I don’t know what size, I don’t know what Dana’s talking about, about size and all that. I don’t even know Jorge that well, because I’ve just seen the last two and I saw the [Al] Iaquinta bout. But I mean anyone. Tony Ferguson. Justin Gaethje. [Max] Holloway rematch. [Jose] Aldo rematch.”
“There are so many bouts for me. And in reality, it doesn’t matter who. It’s just about getting back in and being who I am, not a shell of myself. Not half-committed.”