"If things play out the way Conor thinks, we could be in for a very fun year"
"Hopefully we'll get three good fights from him next year."
Conor McGregor is coming back, Jorge Masvidal has made himself into a pay-per-view star and there is a date fixed for Tony Ferguson versus Khabib Nurmagomedov. We could even have a McGregor Masvidal fight by next summer. Dana White is a happy man.
The UFC president has been merrily doing the media rounds, this week, after getting some big fight deals over the line for 2020. The men's lightweight and welterweight divisions are looking good for 2020 and more should become clear when 170lbs champion Kamaru Usman takes on Colby Covington at UFC 245 in Las Vegas, next weekend.
Added to that, featherweight champion Max Holloway is taking on Alexander Volkanovski in the UFC 245 co-main while Amanda Nunes will defend her women's bantamweight crown against Germain de Randamie. With José Aldo and Frankie Edgar both dipping their toes in the men's bantamweight pool, there are a stack of enticing fight options next year.
With that in mind, it was no surprise to find White in jolly form when he joined Stephen A. Smith for a chat, on his ESPN show, this week. White believes McGregor is returning in 2020 - after a 15-month gap in fighting - with a renewed focus. He said:
"Conor wants to fight at 170 so he doesn't have to make the 55 [weight] cut because, if he beats Cowboy, he wants to turn right around and fight Khabib if Khabib fights Tony. He's also talked about feeling that 170 division out as he'd like to take a run at Masvidal.
"If all these things play out the way that Conor thinks they will, we're in for a very fun year of fights."
While that sounds good, Nurmagomedov is fighting Ferguson on April 18 at The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. 'The Eagle' will then observe Ramadan, which begins on April 23 and lasts until May 23. Even if he does sign up to the McGregor rematch, a 10-week training camp after Ramadan would mean the fight would not take place until August at the earliest.
The likelihood, should McGregor beat Cerrone, is that the Dubliner would stick around at 170lbs for a fight with Jorge Masvidal, who has spoken so well on the prospect of such a fight that it is guaranteed to attract attention.
"Conor's been training hard and he's been getting ready for this moment.... he's at a moment now where he realises that he needs to get his act together. And this win over 'Cowboy' Cerrone, if he can pull it off, is crucial in his career right now, and his future.
"He's taking it very serious and he wants to stay active. That's why he's fighting at 170 and hopefully we get three good fights from him this year."
White says McGregor is 'telling me that he wants that fight with Masvidal' and that could well be the route he takes if he can overcome Cerrone. The Florida native says he is more concerned with big pay-days than going after the winner of Usman vs. Covington.
Should former champion Tyron Woodley successfully lobby for the winner of that bout, that could free up Masvidal for a summer tilt with McGregor.
HOW MCGREGOR'S 2020 COULD PLAY OUT
- Donald Cerrone, January, Las Vegas
- Jorge Masvidal, June, Las Vegas
- Khabib Nurmagomedov, November, New York
The McGregor Masvidal bout could happen as early as June or July, when the UFC's International Fight Week event usually takes place in Las Vegas.
"Let's see if he can get through Cowboy Cerrone," White concluded. "Then there could be the Khabib rematch, which would be the biggest PPV in our history. And if Masvidal is in the picture, that could be a big fight and a fun fight."