2023 looks to be another interesting year in MMA.
With several of the sport’s biggest stars sidelined during most or all of 2022, the new year could feature several big returns. Maybe not including former UFC middleweight UFC champion Michael Bisping, but “The Count” has some names in mind that the community needs to see back in action.
In terms of stars, none have ever been bigger than former dual-division titleholder at featherweight and lightweight, Conor McGregor. That remains true today despite his absence since July 2021 when breaking his leg in his Dustin Poirier trilogy bout.
McGregor has already promised a fight at welterweight upon his eventual return — presumably in 2023. There’s no telling who he could face at this juncture, but Bisping believes there’s one very clear option.
“Conor McGregor ... because whether you like it or hate it, the sport is a way better, more exciting place with him involved,” Bisping said on his Believe You Me podcast. “He does attract eyeballs, excitement, passion, energy, he polarizes people. Granted, big fall from grace, can’t deny that.
“Vs. ... this is the big one; [Jorge] Masvidal. Masvidal and Conor. Conor’s ‘walking around like a fridge these days. He wants to fight at 185 [pounds],’ right? He’s walking around calling himself a fridge (laughs). He’s never seeing 155 again or maybe he is, but not on his first fight back. They’re both strikers, they’ve both lost a few fights recently. So, in terms of the trajectories of their careers, both are kind of on a bit of a skid, they’ve both been out for a little bit. As a fan, their styles would make for an amazing fight.”
A bit down on his luck but not as inactive as McGregor, Masvidal fought once in 2022, suffering a unanimous decision loss to Colby Covington in March. Additionally, “Gamebred” is still battling his old best friend turned bitter rival outside of the octagon thanks to a lawsuit following an alleged assault that came a few weeks after their fight. Regardless, Masvidal appears more likely to take a fight before Covington.
The absence of “Chaos” is a large one within the welterweight ranks at present as well. For Bisping, Covington is a needed puzzle piece amongst the top contender mix.
“Khamzat [Chimaev] is 6-0 in the UFC and he’s on the verge of a title fight,” Bisping said. “There was rumors of it a while ago: him vs. Colby Covington. Co-main event of Leon [Edwards] vs. Kamaru [Usman] 3. That needs to happen for a number of reasons because Colby wants to fight for the belt again. He’s gotta go through a top contender. Khamzat wants to fight for the belt, he’s gotta go through a wrestler. Someone like Colby that can go five rounds at a hard pace.
“Colby might lose the first one, might lose the second, but would take over in three, four, and five because Colby never gets tired.”
Separating from the 170-pound weight class, Bisping’s third most needed fight of 2023 is one that was also largely considered the fight to make in 2022. It doesn’t get much bigger than the heavyweights in most cases and that applies to a Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones megafight.
Ngannou vs. Jones gained immediate interest after Ngannou captured UFC gold in March 2021 and quickly petered out when negotiation roadblocks stalled each fighter. Jones has continued to prepare himself physically in the meantime while Ngannou defended his title against Ciryl Gane in January. “The Predator” has been recovering from serious knee surgery in the time since and ideally would like to return around March in a perfect world.
“Jones-Ngannou all day long,” Bisping said. “There’s no question that that has to happen. Jones has talked about it for so long with his resume, we don’t need to go into that, we all know. He’s had the time to beef up. Of course, there’s other factors; contract negotiations, etc. with Ngannou saying he wants to go box and things like that. But still, he’s the champ, Jones is moving up to fight the champ, it’s the fight that needs to happen.”
New Year, New Champs 2022.
Bellator champs’ year in review - Ep. 2.
Top 5 Upsets in PFL’s 2022 Season.
CCC Training Camp.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
New Year shadow (kick) boxing.
Not an ab muscle in sight https://t.co/lbmEM8JdqR— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 2, 2023
SHOCKING FOOTAGE!!! UFC President and Power Slap Fighting League owner Dana White slapping his wife up in a night club. pic.twitter.com/PBXagE3Fi4— The World Famous MVO (Matt) (@izdatyofaceee) January 3, 2023
Let Rick fight.
アーチュレッタが戦いたいって言ってくれてるみたいだけど— 朝倉 海 Kai Asakura (@kai_1031_) January 3, 2023
Let’s fight @jarchmma
Nothing will make me happier! Let’s put @rizin_PR Title fight on the line— Juan Archuleta (@jarchmma) January 3, 2023
It’s kind of crazy to think McGregor vs. Masvidal might actually be the most realistic one that can happen out of all three mentioned. There are just so many variables that it’s hard to say, though.
Thanks for reading!
Last Week’s Results:
Thursday: 64% of 316 total votes answered “No” when asked, “Did we get Submission of the Year right?” Jiri Prochazka’s fifth-round rear-naked choke over Glover Teixeira at UFC 275 won MMA Fighting’s 2022 Submission of the Year award.
Wednesday: 64% of 495 total votes answered “Bellator” when asked, “Which promotion will have more wins by the end of RIZIN 40?” Bellator went 5-0 in head-to-head matchups with RIZIN.
Tuesday: 68% of 498 total votes answered “Middleweight” when asked, “Which division do you want to see Khamzat Chimaev fight in next?”
Monday: N/A for the holidays!
Today’s exit poll:
Which fight has the most realistic chance of happening in 2023?
This poll is closed
Conor McGregor vs. Jorge Masvidal
Khamzat Chimaev vs. Colby Covington
Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones