Conor McGregor’s next fight shouldn’t be for a UFC title. It shouldn’t be in the boxing ring. It shouldn’t be against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier or even Nate Diaz. And it definitely shouldn’t be against Paulie Malignaggi.
No. The UFC needs to book the rematch they never knew they needed until now. They need to book ‘Mac versus Max.’
That’s right. McGregor should face current UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway in his next matchup.
The fight should take place at lightweight, with Holloway moving up to make his debut at 155lbs, and McGregor facing his featherweight successor in a fascinating rematch as their careers converge once again, some six years after their first meeting.
There are a plethora of reasons why this is the fight to make.
1. NO TITLE REQUIRED
The UFC’s big pay-per-view shows have mostly featured a world title – sometimes two – at the top of the fight card. It’s virtually insisted upon that a title tops a UFC pay-per-view. But when McGregor is involved, a title isn’t necessary.
Prior to his fight with Nurmagomedov, McGregor’s rematch with Nate Diaz set the record for the biggest fight in UFC history, and no title was on the line.
If Holloway moves up to lightweight to face McGregor, there will be no belt on the line, but it won’t matter a jot.
2. IT’S A BIG-TIME REMATCH
Fans love rematches, and while McGregor and Holloway’s first meeting in 2013 finished in a straightforward decision win for the Dubliner, there’s no doubt that a 2019 rematch would draw big, big numbers at the box office and capture the imagination of the fanbase.
Conor McGregor’s stock remains sky high, but despite being the biggest draw in the sport, things look markedly different for McGregor heading into 2019.
His stunning wins over Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez put him at the top of the UFC’s featherweight and lightweight divisions.
But after being stripped of his titles for failing to defend either of them, his claim of being the best has eroded somewhat, thanks to his one-sided beating at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
3. THE BUILD-UP MIGHT ACTUALLY BE FUN
If you’re a fan of lively pre-fight press-conferences and amusing soundbites, “Mac versus Max” should be right up your alley.
While McGregor is the king of pre-fight trash talk, Holloway will certainly give as good as he gets, and he’s scored with a host of social media shots at McGregor in the past.
Holloway is more of a smiling assassin, and has steered clear of the highly questionable taunts we’ve seen from McGregor ahead of his recent bouts.
Holloway looks like a man at the top of his game, both physically and mentally, and is unlikely to be affected by anything McGregor says. And with the Hawaiian more than happy to fire back with witty retorts, either on social media or during a press conference, the build-up to the fight might actually be fun to watch.
4. IT’S A MOUTH-WATERING MATCHUP
Leave the first fight and the trash talk to one side and just look at the fighting styles of both fighters, and you’ll see a matchup between two of the most exciting fighters in the world.
Strip everything away from McGregor and just judge the man as a fighter and there’s no doubt he’s an exciting warrior of the octagon who has been involved in some of the most thrilling contests in UFC history.
A look at Holloway’s fights will show exactly the same, as the Hawaiian’s thrilling, come-forward, fighting style has produced exciting contests throughout his career.
Both men love to stand and trade, and both men will back their striking against the other. It should deliver an absolute barnburner of a bout.
Max Holloway gives Brian Ortega advice to keep his lead hand up mid fight. The disrespect. pic.twitter.com/QruNBSPecJ
— Rob Brown (@RobBrownBetting) January 6, 2019
5. THE RESULT IS FAR FROM A FOREGONE CONCLUSION
McGregor’s fallibility should make the fight even bigger, because although he won the first meeting between the pair, Holloway now has all the skills in his locker to defeat the Irishman in the rematch.
McGregor certainly improved following their first fight, but Holloway is levels above the man who faced McGregor in 2013, and may even have surpassed the Dubliner in his all-round MMA abilities.
Janet Jackson once sang: “What have you done for me lately?” and in UFC terms, Holloway’s resume stands head and shoulders above McGregor’s in terms of recent performances.
Since McGregor’s last win in the UFC, Holloway has fought FOUR times, beating former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (twice) and previously undefeated featherweight challenger Brian Ortega.
And he beat them all by TKO.
McGregor can never be counted out in a predominantly striking contest, but Holloway is on a tear, looks like one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC and has the gas tank and output level to overwhelm McGregor in the later rounds.
The betting odds will be fascinating if the fight ever gets booked but, based on the two fighters’ form and skillsets right now, I’d have to pick the “Blessed Era” to continue with the biggest win of his career, before moving on to eventually become the undisputed UFC lightweight champion before the end of the year.
2019 could see the ‘Return of the Mac’, but I have a feeling by the end of the year we’ll be hailing it as the ‘Year of the Max’.
— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) January 1, 2019
WHO’LL FINISH 2019 AS THE UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION?
Khabib Nurmagomedov: 10/11
Tony Ferguson: 10/3
Max Holloway: 5/1
Conor McGregor: 7/1
Dustin Poirier: 17/2
Kevin Lee: 22/1
Nate Diaz: 22/1