Tuesday 6 December 2016

King of the cage McGregor holds all the aces for talks on future

Joe Callaghan

Published 15/11/2016 | 02:30

McGregor took a stand in the post-fight press conference and demanded a stake in the UFC. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
McGregor took a stand in the post-fight press conference and demanded a stake in the UFC. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

New York gets on with getting on more seamlessly than anywhere else. The winds of Monday morning blew up Seventh and Eighth Avenue and swept away any last remnants of the weekend's excesses around 31st Street.

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Madison Square Garden welcomed its permanent residents, the New York Knicks, back home last night as they faced off against the Dallas Mavericks.

It's much too early in the NBA year for noise and hype but even if it were play-off season, you sense it would be a struggle to match the decibel levels of Saturday night.

Unsurprisingly, the pressing question in Manhattan was when will Conor McGregor be bringing his special roadshow back to town?

The Dubliner still found some space in Monday morning's newspapers in the wake of his exploits in the headline act of UFC 205, when he became the first fighter to claim a second simultaneous title with a devastating TKO of lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.

But with fatherhood looming large and pressing negotiations with the UFC's new owners yet to begin, things might stay quiet for some time.

"I've just learned from my experience with Conor to not make too many plans," the 28-year-old's coach John Kavanagh said last night. "I know I'm back in the gym this week. That's my next move. I don't think it will be all that long until he's back. Who knows?

"Maybe the owners will come back to him with a realistic offer. Let's see how the next few pay-per-views do without him. When they see that, I think they're going to call him.

"Everything he touches seems to turn to gold. He is right to put his foot down and wait for them to come back with a realistic offer.

Saturday night's card broke the Garden's long-standing gate record, with thousands crossing the Atlantic for the occasion. Pay-per-view numbers are likely to smash all-time marks once totted up.

For that and many other reasons McGregor (pictured) took a stand in the post-fight press conference and demanded a stake in the UFC, sold for $4.2 billion this year.

In delivering on the hype again, McGregor hauled in more bargaining chips. The talk of a crossover fight with Floyd Mayweather rose again. As did rumours of a switch to the WWE, with a key wrestling executive, Paul Michael Levesque or Triple H to his friends, at ringside and outspoken in his praise of the Dubliner.

If and when peace breaks out - and if family duties allow - McGregor's next outing is likely to be in the octagon, however, and likely to be bigger again. The identity of who will be on the other side was the hottest topic in MMA yesterday.

Two lightweights - Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov - are pressing for a shot, while former featherweight champion Jose Aldo is also keen to have a go at regaining his title, which McGregor also holds.

Kavanagh threw another all-too familiar name into the mix.

"I think the second best 145er is Max Holloway," he said on the MMA Hour before dropping his bomb.

"I think the second best 155er is ... Nate Diaz. I think he beats either Tony or Khabib. I think he really turned a corner, he looked fantastic in both Conor fights.

"That's who I think the two best guys are. I understand that Khabib is the No 1 contender, but the Nate fight would interest me. If I had the magic buttons to press, that's the fight that would interest me most."

The UFC will return to the Empire State in the New Year with a February card in Brooklyn, with a return to Madison Square Garden likely this time next year.

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