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John Kavanagh believes Conor McGregor should fight winner of Khabib vs. Ferguson before Nate Diaz

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MMA: UFC 205-McGregor vs Alvarez Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

While the wheels are in motion for Conor McGregor’s return to UFC, we really don’t know for sure who “Notorious” will fight when he steps back inside of the Octagon. Most would pit McGregor against the winner of Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, while others would push for a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz.

Since splitting back-to-back bouts in 2016, a grudge match between McGregor and Diaz was arguably the biggest fight to make in mixed martial arts (MMA). That was until Diaz went dark after his loss to “Notorious” at UFC 202 and subsequently lost some of his appeal, according to McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh.

“So definitely for the first six months I thought everybody would have saw the same as me,” said Kavanagh in a recent interview with The Mac Life when discussing the aftermath of UFC 202. “There’s just a beautiful relationship between Conor and Nate in terms of it’s just a great back and forth with them, outside the cage and inside the cage. It’s a lovely fight. His five round rematch is still one of my favorite fights. That being said, I did assume that Nate would be as busy or busier than Conor.

“Conor’s had an MMA fight and a boxing fight since and we haven’t seen Nate since. So I started changing and you could see it amongst the fans who are - I’ve always said and I still believe - are the most important factor in all of this because they pay for the Pay-Per-Views, and that’s what they want to see. But you can see it was clearly becoming they wanted to see either Khabib or Tony in there rather than [Nate], probably for the same reason that we didn’t: Nate didn’t keep busy. So I don’t think it would be quite right for that to happen before the winner of [Khabib]-Tony, because Conor, [Khabib], and Tony have kept busy and Nate hasn’t.”

While Diaz hasn’t competed since UFC 202, McGregor hasn’t been that active either. Sure he was able to defeat Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 to claim the lightweight title, but he’s been absent from the Octagon ever since in favor of challenging undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. this past August.

Still, Kavanagh believes that it’s up to Diaz to reestablish himself as an option for McGregor after not competing for well over a year.

“I think Nate should get one in in the meantime,” Kavanagh said. “Him vs. Woodley, I hear there are rumors of that or him against a good lightweight, and if the MMA gods smile, it would be a victory for him. Conor fights the winner of [Khabib-Tony] and then you’ve got this amazing superfight for New Year’s Eve.”

For now, we’ll just have to keep guessing when and where McGregor will mark his return to the sport that made him famous.