Conor McGregor is back in training, but if he’s ready, who is next?

Footage of Conor McGregor sparring surfaced on Monday, but is the former champ-champ ready to return to the UFC Octagon?

McGregor has been busy on social media since losing to UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in October of last year, but most of that has been focused on building his Irish Whiskey brand Proper No. 12. 

He did at one point tease a potential showdown with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, but it never materialized. With footage of McGregor training starting to appear recently and with Cerrone having moved on and defeated Al Iaquinta, pundits started to wonder if a Conor vs. Cowboy bout might materialize this summer.

Cerrone certainly wanted the bout, saying after his win over Iaquinta, “I want the title, whatever that means, unless Conor McGregor you want to fight me in July.”

Cerrone, however, has since been linked to a fight with Tony Ferguson targeted for UFC 238 in June.

So where does that leave McGregor? 

That’s a good question. Even if he is prepared to return to the Octagon, McGregor has made it clear that he only wants the biggest fights on the biggest stages. 

He wants the rematch with Nurmagomedov, but the champion and his team don’t think McGregor deserves a rematch; at least, not without getting another win or two under his belt first. Nurmagomedov is already lined up to return to unify his belt with interim champion Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in September anyway.

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But if McGregor is training and preparing for a fight, who is left? 

There’s always the possibility of a trilogy fight with Nate Diaz lurking. They split the first two bouts, which produced two of the biggest UFC pay-per-views in history. But Diaz hasn’t fought since he lost to McGregor in 2016, and seems to be at odds with the UFC’s plans for him versus his plans for him.

Right now, McGregor appears to be in a no man’s land when it comes to ideal match-ups to leverage his stardom. But if he’s ready to go, who should he fight next?

That’s not to say there’s no one out there. How about Justin Gaethje or Al Iaquinta? Those are logical fights for McGregor from a sporting aspect, but has his stardom outgrown his skill?