After losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov, punching an old man in a pub and then spending more time promoting his whisky brand than training Conor McGregor has lost a lot of respect of both UFC die-hards and casual viewers alike.
That said, he still pulls more eyeballs than a half-dressed bar of chocolate. To that end, every time he drops a hint about his future plans, the media goes batsh*t.
Whilst we don’t want to read too much into this, The Face Of The Fight Game recently posted some photos to Instagram which strongly suggest a return to the ring.
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In the images, the Irish prizefighter, who is worth $110 million, can be seen squatting…
… doing ab exercises…
… and bench pressing, all under the eyes of a watchful trainer…
…and an even more watchful hound.
To make matters more interesting, he captioned the series, “Building,” sparking his Jiu-Jitsu coach Dillon Danis to comment, “Let’s go champ.” This also comes after McGregor fuelled speculation earlier this year with a video of him flow-sparring at Straight Blast Gym Ireland as well as tweeting, “Dubin, December 14th.”
Dublin, December 14th.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) September 16, 2019
This, plus the hand injury that prompted McGregor to pull out of a potential fight with Justin Gaethje (and the news that his company has allegedly suffered a 6 million dollar loss in the last 12 months) all suggests the pressure (or at least anticipation) of putting a winning stamp back on his name is mounting McGregor harder than Khabib did in their fight last October.
His quick wit (and fists) mean he is still arguably the biggest drawcard the UFC has to attract a non-core audience, making it less than surprising that UFC top dogs like Dana White haven’t ruled out a 2019 fight, despite saying they expect him to return early next year.
As for what McGregor will be returning to, as Express.co.uk reports, “The lightweight division has moved on in [McGregor’s] absence, with champion Nurmagomedov successfully defending his title against Dustin Poirier earlier this month.”
But McGregor’s social media activity, as well as an August interview with ESPN, in which McGregor said, “I would say we can get that done,” when asked about a potential end-of-year return, suggests The Notorious is not phased.
“Like I said, yesterday I spoke to a surgeon about grappling. I’m gonna begin grappling now. I’m already in shape, I have not lost my condition.”
“So, I’m in shape, I just need to sharpen up the grappling, just feel how the grip feels on the wrist and things like that. But I can punch fully,” McGregor added, responding to queries about his hand injury.
But before McGregor gets a rematch with Khabib (who is expected to defend his 155lb strap against Tony Ferguson in December or early next year) pundits are calling for him to prove himself, potentially in the form of a match up with the winner of the upcoming Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz fight – which headlines UFC 244 in New York.
As Express.co.uk reports, while he believes a Khabib-McGregor rematch is a possibility, UFC president Dana White has said, “I think Conor would fight somebody else [before being matched with Khabib again].”
“The Ferguson fight would have to happen, there’s a lot of possibilities… To sit here now and say who is going to fight who; I don’t know until this whole thing plays out. [The] Masvidal-Diaz winner is in the mix, too.”
Either way, McGregor will need to get some serious training in – hence, we would argue, his splurge of fitness posts of late.
As The Sun reported on Wednesday, “The Notorious is already preparing himself for what will be an anticipated comeback, after posting gym photos alongside a no-nonsense pooch… [and after] telling fans he is now hellbent on returning to the cage after doubts [were cast] over his passion for the sport.”
Love him or hate him: don’t deny you’ll be watching when he does.