UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira will defend his title against former interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 later this year. However, the lightweight title picture becomes pretty blurry after that.
Islam Makhachev appeared to be the front-runner for the next title shot after his dominant win over Bobby Green in February, but UFC President Dana White said this week that Makhachev would have to fight again to earn a shot, potentially paving the way for a Conor McGregor title shot later this year.
It’s a surprising turn of events, but one that Michael Bisping, a UFC Hall of Famer, says makes sense.
“It’s wild but if you ran the company would you want that to happen?” Bisping said to Joe Rogan on The Joe Rogan Experience. “You probably would, let’s be honest. The reality is, Conor’s best days are long gone, probably. You can’t stay at the top forever.”
McGregor hasn’t been at the peak of his game in a long time. Despite being the sport’s most prominent celebrity and a wealthy businessman, McGregor has struggled in the cage recently, winning only one bout since 2016. McGregor battled Dustin Poirier twice last year, losing both fights after being viciously knocked out in the first and shattering his leg in the second. Despite his recent poor performance, Bisping believes McGregor has the best chance of recovering the title against Oliveira.
“He’s still got that left hand, he’s still got power and speed.” – Michael Bisping believes Conor McGregor can recapture UFC title from Charles Oliveira
“I’ll tell you this, if there’s a person that you’d put him against in the top-5 to beat, it would be Charles Oliveira,” Bisping said. “Charles is hittable and Conor can still f***ing hit. He’s fast and Charles is hittable…. I’m just saying, there’s a potential that Conor comes back, beats Charles Oliveira and becomes champion again. That is — I don’t think I can deal with the world if that happens. Oh my god. But it might happen. He’s still got that left hand, he’s still got power and speed.”
McGregor has a reasonable probability of getting that chance. The UFC lightweight champion has expressed interest in the fight, while “Notorious” has practically healed from his injury and is already making noise about his return. If Oliveira defeats Gaethje and retains his belt, McGregor may face him late summer or early fall.
While Bisping claims he’s not the same fighter he once was, the fact that he’s still going after it is a testament to McGregor’s love for the sport. McGregor hasn’t fought for a title in nearly four years. It’s been over six years since he first won a UFC belt.
“That’s it though, it changes,” Bisping said. “You can say whatever you want and of course he’s gonna say that, and we all say it. ‘I’m still the same guy, I’m still the same fighter.’ No you f***ing ain’t. No you’re not. Your motivation for doing this is gone. You’re doing it now because — and listen, you’ve got to respect this about him — he loves the fight game. I respect that about him, I really do. That’s the only thing that he can’t buy. The guy can buy whatever he wants and he’s buying yachts and this and that, and God bless him. But you can’t buy the UFC championship of the world. That’s the only thing you can’t buy so he’s got no choice but to go and fight for it, and he’s still choosing to do that so you have to respect that.”