A trilogy clash with Nate Diaz is on the cards and the promotion must pay the man what he deserves
Conor McGregor has settled his business with boxing, likely banking $90million from his defeat to Floyd Mayweather.
The digits generated from the event are trending towards the billion-dollar mark and ultimately the fight will be viewed as nothing more than a transaction.
Indeed, the Irishman had no real right to be in the squared circle because his place of work resides in the cage.
And in the Octagon there is some unfinished business to attend to.
The UFC has a storied history of classic trilogies and either December 30 or 2018 will see another iconic rivalry added to the list because McGregor’s next opponent is a simple choice – it’s Nate Diaz.
The Irishman’s admirable performance against Mayweather had some sections of the media pinning their hopes on a return to the ring but the talk is nonsense because only the Diaz fight makes sense.
In terms of pay-per-view attractions, the UFC has hit the poverty line and McGregor is their only real bankable asset.
With the Mayweather clash reportedly amassing a global PPV audience of 6.5million, a fraction of that viewership will likely be buying a McGregor boxing bout again.
The UFC simply can’t afford his first fight back to have an anticlimactic feel and right now anyone at 155lbs – the division McGregor rules – falls into that category.
Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee scrap for the interim lightweight belt at UFC 216 next month but neither are close to reaching the PPV potential needed to entice McGregor, though that could change come October 7.
Looking at the landscape now, McGregor-Diaz III is the only sensible option. The backdrop is in place already and competitively the pair are tied at one apiece, McGregor claiming the rematch at UFC 202 after being submitted at UFC 196.
Fans are already invested and to the new ones segwaying into MMA from the Mayweather fight, it’s a narrative easy to sell and simple to pick up.
The guarantee of interest equates to a guarantee of PPV sales and no other fight at 155lbs offers that.
Of course, McGregor could move up to 170lbs and challenge for the unprecedented feat of a third belt but the logjam is bad enough as it is.
Even the Diaz clash presents its own problems. Indeed, the winner of Lee and Ferguson will naturally ascend to an undisputed title shot but the contextual element of Diaz could see him jump the queue.
And what if he wins?
The 32-year-old hasn’t fought since his defeat to McGregor in August 2016 and hasn’t shown any interest in changing that.
Only the trilogy would bring him back to the Octagon and a win would likely be the last we see of him because according to his boxing coach Richard Perez, he’s looking to be paid big to face McGregor.
“At least $20 million, $30 million,” he told Submission Radio when asked how much it would
“Come on. UFC’s making a whole lot of money, a whole lot of money and they’re pocketing it.
“They’re giving more to McGregor, so it’s not fair because it takes two in that ring to draw a crowd – I mean, a good two fighters.”
That figure might be the starting point of the negotiations and in reality they’ll meet somewhere in the middle. But the derision Diaz received from that figure being thrown out is misplaced.
He is taking advantage of the situation and he is in the perfect position to get the big money fight.
At the end of the day, that’s just good business and McGregor knows a thing or two about that.