After taking nearly a year off to hype his first foray into the boxing ring, mixed martial artist Conor McGregor may be ready for a return to the Octagon.
The reigning UFC Lightweight Champion last fought in an MMA match in November of 2016, when he spent less than two rounds taking Eddie Alvarez apart in a TKO victory.
But according to a report published last week by Irish tabloid Sunday World, the “Notorious” one has moved on from his money grab against Floyd Mayweather by setting his sights on an old rival.
Per the Sunday World, McGregor’s camp is preparing for a third bout with UFC bad boy Nate Diaz, which would complete one of the more entertaining trilogies in mixed martial arts history.
The tabloid reported a tentative date of December 30, but those specifics were quickly shot down by McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh.
Speaking with mixed martial arts reporter Mike Sheridan on September 27 at an event in Dublin, which was covered by MMAFighting.com, Kavanagh nixed the Sunday World timeline – while making sure to keep the possibility of McGregor vs. Diaz III alive and well:
“December 30th is definitely not happening. I don’t know how these things get started, but they have a certain way of gaining momentum.
If it was my choice, and I must stress that this is only my choice and that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, it would be Nate Diaz in March. That’s what I would push towards.
“I have in my head that it would be a Paddy’s Day card in New York, Nate Diaz 3. I think that would be absolutely amazing. That’s what I would wish for.”
Reading those tea leaves, online sportsbook Bovada has opened betting on a potential McGregor vs. Diaz III rematch, installing the Irishman as a (-250) favorite while Diaz is listed as a (+195) underdog.
Those are the only odds posted thus far, and the only caveat is that the fight must take place before July 15 of 2018 to be considered action.
McGregor first faced Diaz in March of last year at UFC 195, bringing with him a seven-match winning streak in UFC competition, and 15 consecutive victories overall. McGregor held the Featherweight championship at the time, but after expressing interest in moving up to the Lightweight tier, he was slated to fight Rafael dos Anjos for that division’s championship.
An injury to dos Anjos forced the UFC to find an emergency replacement, and Diaz stepped forward on just 13 days’ notice. As such, McGregor permitted the fight to take place at Diaz’ Welterweight limit of 170 pounds.
After opening as a (-400) underdog, Diaz submitted McGregor in the second round via rear naked choke, shocking the mixed martial arts world in the process.
A rematch was immediately set, and McGregor squared off against Diaz for the second time in August at UFC 202. Once again fighting as Welterweights, the pair went the distance, with McGregor winning a unanimous – but somewhat controversial and surely close – 48–47, 47–47, 48–47 decision.
McGregor went on to take the Lightweight championship from Alvarez, before taking a sabbatical from the UFC to set up his super fight with Mayweather.
With McGregor out of competition since November, the UFC has scheduled an Interim Lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee. That bout is scheduled for October 7 at UFC 216, and many mixed martial arts pundits believe the winner should face McGregor to unify the title ahead of any Diaz rematch.
But McGregor’s coach has rejected that notion out of hand. Kavanagh told MMAFighting.com that his man has no such obligations, as his interest in the UFC no longer lies in the title chase:
“Really, Conor doesn’t have to do that anymore. He won the featherweight belt, interim and unified. He won the lightweight belt.
At this stage, he’s only doing fights because they’re fun. A big fight build-up and to win that — that will do for me anyway.
I always think that if I was to develop a fighter that would give Conor his best or worst night, either way you look at it, I would come up with Nate Diaz.”
Like McGregor, Diaz hasn’t competed in the UFC since the pair’s second contest.