We saw the fight and then we saw a fight after the fight. It was pure chaos on Saturday night after Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Conor McGregor at the main event of UFC 229 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Nurmagomedov battered McGregor on the ground for three rounds before choking out the Irishman in round four of their UFC lightweight title fight. But before Khabib could be officially declared the winner, all hell broke loose after Nurmagomedov leaped out of the octagon to attack McGregor training partner Dillon Danis at ringside. Fortunately, the brawl was contained before it escalated to the stands.

Khabib and McGregor already gave their statements of the incident. However, days later, fans from both sides continue to put the blame on the other side. But while many are still fighting over the brawl, let’s talk about what could be next for both fighters.

Khabib vs Ferguson, Finally?

The win last Saturday meant that Khabib Nurmagomedov retained his UFC lightweight belt. In the normal course of business, the next fight to make would be against the next top challenger and in this case, it is Tony Ferguson.

Entering UFC 229, Ferguson was the 2nd ranked lightweight in the promotion. The former Ultimate Fighter tournament winner was the interim UFC lightweight champion a couple of months back and he was scheduled to meet Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 last April. However, Ferguson suffered a freak knee injury during a media event for UFC 223 and was removed from the bout. He was stripped of the interim belt and Khabib was awarded the regular UFC lightweight title after defeating Al Iaquinta at UFC 223.

Actually, Ferguson and Khabib have been booked to fight each other four times already. But each time that they have been scheduled to fight, one had to pull out because of injury. They were first slated to meet in 2015 at the finale of TUF 22 but two months before the bout, Khabib suffered a rib injury. The following year, the UFC booked the pair again for UFC on Fox 19 but this time around, it was Ferguson who begged off after suffering an illness that caused blood and fluid build up inside his lungs.

Then at UFC 209, they were one day away from fighting when Khabib was hospitalized on the day of the weigh-ins because of weight cutting issues. That was as close as Khabib and Ferguson have been to fighting. But with Ferguson’s brutal and bloody Fight of the Night win over Anthony Pettis in the UFC 229 co-main event, their paths are set to cross once again. But if there’s a potential roadblock to this fight, it may no longer be injuries.

McGregor Wants More?

Less than 24 hours after the loss, Conor McGregor was already tweeting about a rematch: “Good knock. Looking forward to the rematch”. One day later, the brash Irishman reiterated his thoughts and further insinuated a run back, saying via Twitter again” We lost the match but we won the battle. The war is not over.”

When Conor McGregor lost to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, he immediately asked for a rematch. Of course, the UFC obliged and what we saw next was the biggest PPV event in UFC history at UFC 202. Now UFC President Dana White was talking about UFC 229 breaking that record. By the looks of it, he may be correct. So if 229 is going to break the record, what more for a rematch after all the madness and everything that has followed? For the UFC, McGregor asking for a rematch is sweet music to their ears.

McGregor recently signed a new 8-fight deal with the UFC. Even his Proper 12 Irish Whiskey is part of his new deal. The Irishman also recently signed multi-million dollar deals with Reebok and Monster Energy. With millions of dollars and probably even more on the line here, you can’t expect the UFC to put Conor McGregor on the shelf too long. There’s too much at stake financially if the last image of the Notorious One would be that of him helplessly tapping out to Khabib last Saturday.

Conor McGregor is a stubborn man because he has plenty of confidence in himself. I’m not sure though if he honestly thinks he can beat Khabib if they fight again. But he knows that if he made easy $50M last Saturday, he’ll make much more in a rematch. What’s sure though is the UFC surely doesn’t want to see him get tapped out by Khabib again, so while they want McGregor to be back inside the octagon soon, it may not be against Nurmagomedov.

Will Khabib Be Stripped?

It’s funny because right after the brawl, Dana White was already talking about the possibility of Khabib facing a lengthy suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission which has withheld Khabib’s $2M purse for now pending investigation on the incident. To add to that, White also said that a long suspension could lead to Nurmagomedov being stripped of the title.

It can be recalled that Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier engaged in a brawl at the UFC 178 pre-fight press conference. Although that brawl wasn’t as large scale as Saturdays, no suspensions were handed out during that incident. When McGregor and Nate Diaz figured in a bottle throwing incident in the lead-up to UFC 202, the NSC only fined the fighters. But perhaps because the UFC 229 brawl was worse, the NSC could end up suspending Khabib for his role in starting the brawl. But even then, we don’t know if and how long that suspension would be. So why talk about stripping Khabib already?

Stripping Khabib would create a vacuum in the lightweight division. With that, a new champion will be crowned. For sure, Tony Ferguson would be one party to that title bout because after all, El Cucuy already earned the right to fight Nurmagomedov next. But who will Ferguson’s opponent be? That’s where this gets interesting.

Of course, the next highest ranked challenger would be none other than Conor McGregor. If McGregor has a chance of winning the UFC lightweight belt again, it would be against Ferguson. Make no mistake, Tony is a bad dude with an 11 fight win streak. But he doesn’t have Khabib’s grappling and wrestling. Ferguson is also vulnerable on his feet although he’s shown incredible recovery. But between Khabib and Ferguson, the UFC would rather take its chance on McGregor redeeming himself against Ferguson.

Marinating The Rematch

If McGregor beats Ferguson, that would set up a potential rematch with Khabib. By that time, whatever lengthy suspension the NSC may hand out on the Dagestani should be over. By that time, the Khabib vs McGregor rematch will have been marinated and will become an even bigger event.

The bigger the event, the bigger the chance to make more money. For the UFC, it’s always been profit first before sport. Remember that the new owners paid $3B for the UFC a couple of years back. With McGregor out of the octagon in the previous two years, the owners have suffered much financially. McGregor’s return surely boosted the UFC’s bottomline this year. The numbers aren’t out yet but UFC 229 is expected to be a record breaker. You can only imagine the earning potential of the rematch.

But while the rematch may be a financial hit, beating Khabib may be another story for Conor McGregor. We talked about Khabib vs McGregor as a stylistic battle between a striker and a grappler and that how McGregor will always have a chance because every fight starts on the feet. However, as we saw last Saturday, McGregor wasn’t even dominant on the feet as it was Khabib who scored the fight’s only knockdown.

Meanwhile, McGregor showed his weakness on the ground once again. It didn’t take a minute for Khabib to grab a hold of his leg and ultimately take him down. Conor has lost four times in his MMA career, all of them have been via submission. Unless McGregor grows a ground game overnight, the rematch won’t probably end differently. Don’t tell that to Conor though. Nothing is impossible to him, especially at the right price.

 

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