5 fighters who deserve the 'red panty night' paycheck if Conor McGregor returns on 2023

Conor McGregor is undoubtedly the biggest draw to fight in the UFC, as he has headlined seven best-selling pay-per-view events in the history of the promotion. While the former double champ has been inactive since breaking his leg at UFC 264 nearly 18 months ago, he is targeting a return to the octagon in 2023.

#1. Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler has angled for a potential fight with Conor McGregor since making his promotional debut at UFC 257. His desire for a big-money fight has only increased since his loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 281, which pushed him further away from another opportunity at the lightweight title.

While McGregor will likely have his choice of potential opponents, Chandler makes a lot of sense for his return fight. Despite his wrestling background, the No.5-ranked lightweight has shown that he is more than willing to stand and bang, which plays to McGregor’s style.

The fight would also present McGregor, who is currently unranked, with an opportunity to jump into the top five of the lightweight division. Furthermore, a victory, and the subsequent ranking that follows, would likely ensure him a title opportunity due to his massive popularity.

#2. Jorge Masvidal

Although Conor McGregor has previously teased a move up to the welterweight division, it’s still unclear if he will follow through with it. However, if he does, Jorge Masvidal represents the perfect opponent in the weight class.

A fight against the No.11-ranked welterweight would easily become one of the highest-selling pay-per-view events in UFC history. The potential matchup could potentially have an outside chance of breaking the record of 2.4 million pay-per-view buys set at UFC 229.

More importantly, however, facing a striker should be McGregor’s focus as he returns to the octagon. While most welterweights would likely take the fight to the ground, Masvidal is unlikely to do so, which would open the door for McGregor to pick up a victory and enter the rankings.

Furthermore, unlike Donald Cerrone, the last fighter Conor McGregor defeated, Masvidal would not be viewed as an easy opponent. Although he has slipped in the rankings due to three consecutive losses, they have come against two of the best fighters in the division.

#3. Alexander Volkanovski

Alexander Volkanovski’s inclusion on this list is contingent on the featherweight champion defeating Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 and joining Conor McGregor as just the fifth double champ in UFC history. McGregor is unlikely to face Makhachev if he is successful in his first title defense, as the lightweight champion represents a matchup nightmare.

Volkanovski and McGregor exchanged words on Twitter following the announcement of his bout with Makhachev. The No.1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter shared that he would be happy to welcome the former double champ back to the octagon.

If he is successful in his pursuit of greatness, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Volkanovski chose to target what would likely represent the biggest payday of his mixed martial arts career. Facing a fighter who would theoretically be a double champ and the No.1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter would be the ideal situation for Conor McGregor. A victory would allow him to regain the lightweight title and re-enter the pound-for-pound rankings.

Furthermore, while Volkanovski is no slouch on the ground, he has just three submissions in his mixed martial arts career and none since 2015. While he would still represent a tough fight for McGregor, his fighting style plays to McGregor’s strengths.

#4. Paddy Pimblett

Paddy Pimblett has certainly lost some of his luster following a poor performance at UFC 282 in which many felt he was gifted a unanimous decision victory over Jared Gordon. If anything, that may help him land a fight against Conor McGregor.

Leading up to the fight, the unranked lightweight was teased as the “next McGregor.” However, he did not live up to that notion with his performance. The former double champ could look at Pimblett the way many other lightweights have started to, as a potential easy victory.

Furthermore, he could be motivated to show that there is no next McGregor and that he still has what it takes to defeat upcoming lightweights and remain the biggest draw in the sport. While the UFC has been attempting to push fighters into that role due to his inactivity, defeating Pimblett would likely slow that down.

#5. Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 4

The first tetralogy bout in UFC history will take place between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno at UFC 283. A tetralogy bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier would be a much bigger draw, however, as their two most recent meetings are the second and fourth-best-selling pay-per-views in the history of the promotion. While this fight seemed unlikely a month ago, the two fighters recently exchanged words on Twitter in which both teased a potential fourth meeting.

While McGregor defeated Poirier via a first-round TKO at UFC 178, the No.2-ranked lightweight got his revenge at UFC 257 via a second-round TKO. In their highly-anticipated trilogy bout at UFC 264, Poirier won via first-round TKO as the fight was stopped due to McGregor’s broken leg. Facing Poirier in his return would give McGregor an opportunity to even the score while also putting him in immediate title contention.

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