LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor has a lot of options right now, as tends to be the case for people with around $100 million sitting snugly in the bank.
The noisy Irishman can lay on yachts and collect sports cars, splurge on mink coats and sip champagne in private jets — all things he likes to do — for a good while yet before the fund supply dries up.
He can also procrastinate and tease the MMA audience about an impending return while tweaking UFC president Dana White over various financial stipulations, another popular pastime he has acquired while rising to prominence over the past couple years.
He could fight Manny Pacquiao, to follow his boxing adventure against Floyd Mayweather in August. He fared better than most expected, possibly through his own skill or perhaps because Mayweather carried him somewhat in order to produce a better show.
And the final option, which would undoubtedly be the best for supporters of mixed martial arts, just got a whole lot less appealing for him after UFC 219 on Saturday night.
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If McGregor opted to go into battle against Khabib Nurmagomedov, it would be a combat sports bonanza of epic proportions. Nurmagomedov was superb in mauling Edson Barboza in Saturday’s main undercard fight, winning each of the three rounds by a distance and further establishing himself as a ferocious lightweight who, whisper it now, might be the best the division has to offer.
We may never find out, mainly because McGregor has a smart mind to match his smart mouth. Nurmagomedov is good enough to be his kryptonite, and the potential reward is likely not worth the risk involved.
If McGregor was to take on Nate Diaz in a trilogy bout, it would make him far more money due to Diaz’s crossover appeal and ability to secure big pay-per-view numbers. And while Diaz won their first fight, he must look like a far more attractive proposition than Nurmagomedov, the bruising, all-action Russian whose wrestling skills and ground game are beyond compare.
McGregor does hold the lightweight belt, but even then he has the perfect excuse. Tony Ferguson is the interim champion, having ascended to that status when Nurmagomedov pulled out of their scheduled fight earlier this year due to weight cutting issues. If McGregor takes on Ferguson sometime over the next few months, possibly at UFC 222 in Las Vegas in March, he could justifiably argue he is tackling the next man in line.
A few months back, White revealed McGregor had spoken to him about the prospect of taking on Nurmagomedov in Moscow, in what would be a much-anticipated first foray into Russia for the company. In all probability, it was bluster.
The McGregor situation is a sore point for Nurmagomedov and his team. At a recent media engagement in Los Angeles, the fighter’s manager Ali Abdelaziz erupted angrily when USA TODAY Sports posed a question to his man on the topic.
“(Expletive) Conor McGregor,” Abdelaziz interrupted before later apologizing.