Conor McGregor remains the biggest star in combat sports, but he has a lot to prove when he returns to the UFC.
It’s been nearly seven years since McGregor became the first-ever simultaneous two-division UFC champion. Over three years have passed since his most recent victory, a win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone back in 2020. Since then, the 34-year-old Irishman has suffered back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier, dropping his overall record to 1-3 in his past four fights.
As McGregor prepares for his eventual return against Michael Chandler — most likely later this year — UFC welterweight Matt Brown counts himself among doubters who believe “The Notorious” won’t ever get back to championship form again.
“In his prime, I would pick him to beat Michael Chandler,” Brown said on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I’m not sure Conor is actually in his prime anymore. I think he’s going to want to be out there. He wants his name in the news. He’s addicted to that, people loving him and the ego, and I think he likes getting in there and fighting. But whether he wins or loses, I don’t see him in the top-five ever again, personally.
“They might rank him top-five if he beats Michael Chandler, but he’s not a true top-five guy. I don’t think he beats Beneil [Dariush], I don’t think he beats any of the top-five guys, [Dustin] Poirier, [Justin] Gaethje, I just don’t think he’s a top-five guy anymore.”
Brown admits he questioned McGregor’s greatness during the Irish star’s run at featherweight, which culminated with a blistering 13-second knockout over Jose Aldo in 2015. That win, along with subsequent title grab at lightweight, cemented McGregor’s status among the all-time greats. But all of those accomplishments happened several years ago.
Now, coming off two consecutive losses to Poirier, coupled with the long rehabilitation from a broken leg, Brown doesn’t expect McGregor to ever reach his peak again.
“He was great fighter,” Brown said. “I give him credit. He was a great f****** fighter. I think he could have done enormous things had he kept his head on right and kept his eyes on the prize. I think he lost track, particularly after the Khabib [Nurmagomedov] loss. I think he just completely lost track, maybe after he fought Floyd [Mayweather], but at some point he completely lost track, and I don’t see him coming back to that.
“I think Chandler’s the wrong guy to be fighting in that position. I’m going to pick Chandler to win, but Conor should, with his skillset, be able to win. With that said, he will never be a top-five guy regardless — he’ll never beat a top five guy, in my opinion.”
While another loss would certainly harm McGregor’s reputation as a legitimate title contender, he still remains a massive draw at the box office, which puts him in a separate category than almost any other fighter with a 1-4 record over five fights.
Brown, who tied the record for the most knockouts in UFC history with his most recent win, acknowledges McGregor will still be a massive draw. That’s not likely to change.
“If Conor loses this fight, I think he’ll certainly never get back to title contention,” Brown explained. “I think that’s going to be way too uphill of a battle, but he will still be a draw.
“It will be more of the circus fights like maybe it’s Nate Diaz, if they ever figure out a way to promote it — Nate’s a free agent now — but I think Conor, the way his ego works, he’s going to want to be in the spotlight still. He’s going to want to do something to keep his name out there. But will he ever be competitive in the top-10 again? I don’t think he will, period.”