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Six fighters waiting for Conor McGregor in the UFC's lightweight division

Who is the new featherweight champion likely to face when he moves up to 155lbs?

Rafael dos Anjos

UFC Orlando Source: Reinhold Matay

The reigning champion in the lightweight division will put his title on the line for the first time against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone on Saturday night. As an extremely accomplished grappler, dos Anjos would represent a very tricky match-up for McGregor. The 31-year-old BJJ black belt from Brazil has fought 18 times for the UFC, picking up significant wins over the likes of former champions Anthony Pettis and Benson Henderson.

What he’s had to say about McGregor: “Tell him to stay at featherweight because here (lightweight) is going to be tough for him.” — March, 2015

Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone

UFC Fight Night Boston Source: AP/Press Association Images

In his 19th UFC bout, Cerrone finally gets his title shot this weekend. The 32-year-old Colorado native has won eight fights on the trot but his last defeat came against the man he faces on Saturday night in Orlando — Rafael dos Anjos. With a background in kickboxing and a fondness for trash-talk, a meeting of McGregor and Cerrone is what the majority of fans will be hoping for.

What he’s had to say about McGregor: “I’d knock the fucking shit out of that kid. He’s too small to come up to 155. But I want that payday.” – December, 2015

Anthony Pettis

MMA UFC 192 Source: AP/Press Association Images

Another one with the potential to make for a spectacular match-up, Pettis versus McGregor would be met with few complaints. The main issue, however, is the 28-year-old American’s injury record. Pettis, who remains the number one contender, has fought just four times in the last three years, but having relinquished the UFC lightweight title with a shock defeat to Rafael dos Anjos back in March, Pettis can get himself back into contention with a win against Eddie Alvarez on 17 January.

What he’s had to say about McGregor: “With Conor, he hasn’t beat anybody yet so it’s hard to tell. If he beats Aldo, then he’s legit.” — October 2015

Khabib Nurmagomedov

UFC Orlando Source: Reinhold Matay

Injuries have also been a problem for Nurmagomedov, who has withdrawn from his last three scheduled bouts. However, the undefeated Dagestani fighter’s last win came against the current champion, Rafael dos Anjos. The 27-year-old, who holds the record for the most takedowns in a UFC bout (21), could pose plenty of problems for McGregor with his wrestling. He also appears to have been laying the foundations for the fight on social media over the past few days.

What he’s had to say about McGregor: “I like Conor McGregor but if he comes up to 155lbs, in four minutes I’ll smash him. No problem.” — April 2015

Nate Diaz

UFC on Fox Mixed Martial Arts Source: AP/Press Association Images

He may have slipped down the rankings to 15th, but when Nate Diaz’s head is in the game he can be as dangerous as any other contender in the lightweight division. Diaz, who was a candidate to fight McGregor when Jose Aldo pulled out at UFC 189 in July, hasn’t fought since a unanimous-decision defeat to Rafael dos Anjos last December. He’s been stopped just once in his last 20 fights, despite facing the likes of dos Anjos, Rory MacDonald, Benson Henderson and Donald Cerrone (who he defeated). The 30-year-old takes on sixth-ranked Michael Johnson on Saturday night. Like McGregor, Diaz doesn’t hold his tongue so the fight would be a dream for the UFC’s marketing machine.

What he’s had to say about McGregor: “Conor McGregor keeps talking about coming up and fighting dos Anjos. I don’t know what that’s going to do for him. So if these guys want some real fights, then they can call and work it out, or if I can figure it out, I’m game to fight if the money is going to be worth it.” — April 2015

Joseph Duffy

Joseph Duffy Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

With Duffy’s status as the last man to beat McGregor, this fight is one the UFC are undoubtedly saving for a rainy day. However, in order for it to be a possibility, Duffy needs to keep winning. The Donegal native faces his toughest test yet against Dustin Poirier, one of McGregor’s former opponents, at UFC 195 on 2 January. A win will move him into the rankings and a step closer to a rematch that everyone would be interested in seeing.

What he’s had to say about McGregor: “If we fight, I’ll do my talking in the octagon. I’ll prove it on the night, not on Twitter.” — November 2015

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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