By Noel Atcheson
Conor McGregor stands at a career crossroads after gaining lightweight glory and defeating Eddie Alvarez in New York – but just what is next for the soon-to-be father?
With the recent announcement that McGregor is to take a six-month hiatus from MMA to be by his pregnant partner Dee Devlin’s side, many will be left to ponder – where does the Notorious go from here?
McGregor is the monster of MMA – a sport that has catapulted along with his name. His fame means he can dictate much of his own destiny – which, of course is likely to be defined by the amount of zeroes on his contract.
But the fighter’s dominance is a position that was long earned. While very few are able to attain the level of cross-over appeal the Dubliner has.
McGregor seems to have won the hearts of MMA fans and those who hadn’t even a passing interest in the violent sport before they had heard his name or watched his cocky swagger into the ring.
The Crumlin native provides knockouts almost every time he steps into battle and sells out stadiums before he sheds a drop of blood.
Irish fans follow him faithfully, creating a carnival-like atmosphere, that only adds to the spectacle of watching the Notorious compete.
The fighter’s arrogant manner may divide opinion and court controversy but this same larger-than-life persona also grabs the star headlines globally and sees his name written thousands of time on Facebook and Twitter.
McGregor is arguably one of the hottest commodities in global sport at the moment and he’s got to be our finest export.
At least when the Americans and British watch him fight, we know they remember our reputation as the fighting Irish – a label many had forgotten during the boom to bust period that seemed to beat down this proud nation for so long.
His ludicrous claim of wanting shares in the UFC after his victory over Alvarez could be perceived as impertinent, but this demanding style is the nature of the McGregor era. It’s what some love about him while others clearly love to hate the Dub.
Moving up to the welterweight division to challenge for a world-title in a third weight division seems one potential direction.
Champion Tyron Woodley has already expressed his interest in giving McGregor the opportunity to write another chapter in an extraordinary modern sport legacy, and provide the UFC with another mega-money event.
Fights with lightweight contenders Tony Ferguson and the dangerous Dagestani Khabib Nurmagomedov have also been mooted but their lack of appeal outside of the MMA audience may force McGregor to reach for another dangling carrot.
Specifically, the fighter has been vocal in the last few months about his desire to coax retired boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. into a bout that would generate interest, culturally and financially, beyond belief.
Their media tete a tete has created an unusual buzz, with the whispering of negotiations between the pair for a contest held under specialised rules – but both denied any such bout would take place.
McGregor seems steadfast in his desire to bring the American legend to the negotiating table, albeit under his conditions but Mayweather said the Dublin man is “trying to get himself some publicity” by using his name.
From a cynical perspective, this statement provides some sense of logic. The Irishman is shrewd enough to employ whatever tactics he sees necessary to further his own interests.
After all, he has already created the media possibility of a Mayweather fight, even if there is absolutely no truth in this.
McGregor has demanded a $100 m guarantee would suffice for him to give concession to competing strictly under boxing rules and Mayweather has laughed off the possibility.
But surely he must be aware of the potential of another decadent nine-figure pay-day.
And a fight against Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquiao, who had a very brief retirement, has been touted for next year for Mayweather.
But the world knows the prospect of a second fight with the Manny would not generate the same buzz as a rumble with McGregor.
One thing is for sure though – McGregor’s star is only on the rise and next year though he doesn’t wish his family to be in the media game – there will only be one family most of the world’s media are interested in.
And with more fame, comes more dollars. Happy New Year Conor and family!