Written by on January 12, 2018

Opinion by: Brian Mazique via Forbes Magazine

“Pay me my worth and the kings back.” That’s what UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor said (among other things) via Twitter shortly after Khabib Nurmagomedov ripped Edson Barboza to shreds at UFC 219 in December.

That was an answer to one of the biggest questions floating about in the MMA community. Nurmagomedov and interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson are the men in line to challenge McGregor, but he’s holding out for an unprecedented payday for a return to the Octagon.

Meanwhile, UFC President Dana White says McGregor needs to defend the title by March, or he’ll arrange for Ferguson and Nurmagomedov to battle for the undisputed crown.

After making a reported $100 million to fight Floyd Mayweather in August 2017, it’s easy to understand why the traditional purses UFC fighters make would be less than appealing to McGregor.

He reportedly wants to face Mayweather in the Octagon, but the chances of that happening are about as slim as McGregor’s chances of beating the former pound-for-pound king in the boxing ring. Paulie Malignaggi and other boxers have tried to talk up a bout with McGregor, but it probably wouldn’t be worth the latter’s time.

If McGregor wants to maximize his earning potential, there’s only one opponent he could face that will lead to a payday anywhere near what he earned to lose to Mayweather, and that’s Manny Pacquiao.

The future Hall of Famer and his camp have expressed an interest in facing the Irishman in a boxing ring and there were rumors the two sides were in negotiations.

McGregor seemed to kill the buzz quickly when he said his next fight would be “a true fight,” (referring to MMA). Also, that would mean the UFC would have to allow McGregor to box again without defending his lightweight title, or strip him as he takes another stab at the sweet science.

There’s another potential impediment to this potential circus fight, and that’s the nasty relationship between Dana White and Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum.

If any negotiations were to take place between the two sides, you’d have to believe that someone else from the UFC to work out a deal with Arum.

If by some chance a deal was struck for McGregor to face Pacquiao, it would be a risky proposition for the former. If he loses, as most would expect, a second embarrassing defeat would damage his future marketability. Granted, he’d probably make enough to walk away from fighting entirely, but if he did want to come back to MMA, he would look like less of a giant in the eyes of casual fans of the sport.

That brings him back to the UFC and a fight with the winner of a Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov bout. That’s always been the most logical sequence of events. While he won’t make anywhere close to $100 million in that fight, he could re-establish himself as the King of the Octagon from a popularity standpoint.

It’s in the best interest of both boxing and MMA if McGregor goes back to the sport that ignited his rise. That said, the UFC does need to figure out a way to allow its fighters to earn a higher percentage of the revenue they create. As influential as McGregor is, the UFC still appears to hold sway in this situation.

He’s the biggest star the sport has ever seen, but at some point, fans will move on from McGregor.

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