Joe Rogan isn’t sure what Conor McGregor’s plan is for a UFC return, but he thinks it’d be a mistake to jump into an immediate fight against welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
“If Conor wants the most chance of success, I would say fight a guy who is a little below championship level,” Rogan recently said on the Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson podcast. “Maybe a guy on the come-up who Conor has an advantage over, but it’s still a competitive fight. Give him a test, but don’t put him in there right away with Usman.”
McGregor has been sidelined since his July 2021 loss to Dustin Poirier, which ended with the former two-division champion suffering a gruesome broken leg.
“The Notorious” has been rehabilitating his injuries ever since and is expected to return to action sometime in 2022. When he does, he’ll be looking to snap out of a slump that has seen him win just one fight since 2017 and lose three out of his last four, which is exactly why Rogan thinks McGregor’s recent rhetoric about vaulting up to 170 pounds to challenge the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport fresh off a crippling leg injury is a mistake.
“I think, honestly, when boxers come back from a long layoff and they come back from a loss, one thing that boxers do that’s smart is they have a tune-up fight,” Rogan said.
“I think there’s a reason why they’ve been using tune-up fights forever, like astute managers. They know you’ve got to knock the dust off and you’ll be better in the next performance, [rather than] to jump right into a Dustin Poirier or right into — name it — Michael Chandler, like right into a guy who’s the elite of the elite.”
Rogan has a point that the majority of McGregor’s recent slump has come against some of the most talented fighters in the world. McGregor was submitted in 2018 by former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov — who, at one point prior to his retirement, was also the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport — and then was stopped twice by top lightweight contender and former interim champion Poirier.
The only step down in competition McGregor fought over that span was Donald Cerrone, who was mired in the midst of his own current six-fight slump, and McGregor finished Cerrone with a highlight-reel knockout in 40 seconds.
So even though Rogan noted that McGregor is ultimately going to follow the beat of his own drum regardless of what critics want him to do, he knows what advice he’d give to the Irishman if given the opportunity.
“I think what Conor needs to do is what Conor wants to do,” Rogan said. “If Conor thinks he can go up and fight Usman and make a big payday, try to become a three-division champion, he should do that. He should do whatever he wants to do.
“But if I was like a manager to him, and I said, ‘What’s the best path to success?’ The best path to success is like the ‘Cowboy’ fight. No disrespect to ‘Cowboy,’ but that fight turned out to be kind of like a warm-up fight.”