What the UFC looks like going into 2020

What the UFC looks like going into 2020

New year’s resolutions: everybody makes them, nobody sticks to them. You want to lose weight? De-stress? Quit smoking? Good on you. Be prepared to commit a serious amount of leg work, though. Nice things don’t come easy. Apart from when they do; if you’re anything like most people and find it difficult to commit to a strenuous plan spanning beyond three days in length, we have the perfect new year’s resolution for you. One that requires minimum effort in exchange for maximum reward. It’s as simple as this: watch the UFC.

If you’re a fan of sports and you aren’t watching MMA, you’re missing out. Fighting isn’t for everybody, that much can be understood. But there are reasons we all love sport – tension, drama, underdog triumphs, heartbreak and emotional backstorys. MMA has it all. This is a sport where the underdog wins roughly 40% of the time (in the UFC), a sport where fans can forge emotional relationships with its participants, a sport where those ‘take you off your seat’ moments happen jaw-droppingly regularly.

2019 was a groundbreaking year for the UFC: a new record live attendance was set, new stars rose to prominence, an old-school veteran became a household name, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wrapped a fictional belt around the waist of Jorge Masvidal, this list could go on. But while 2019 will forever be a landmark year in the promotions history, 2020 has all the tools to usurp it.

Importantly for the sport, the success of 2019 was achieved in the absence of its biggest star – Conor McGregor. Two years ago this would have seemed impossible, but fast forward to the present day where the rise of Israel Adesanya and the resurgence of Jorge Masvidal – along with the return of Nate Diaz and the dominant force of Khabib – has seen us reach a point where MMA can not only progress, but also flourish without Conor McGregor. But here’s the thing – he’s back. Very soon, in fact. McGregor quite literally kicks off 2020 for the UFC as he takes on Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC 246 in Las Vegas on January 18th.

Can McGregor comeback this year

McGregor has competed just once in MMA since 2016, so the claim that fans have been starved of his competition is an understatement. However, according to both Dana White and those close to Conor, the 31-year-old is determined to fight three times this year and has rediscovered his obsession for the sport.

Conor’s sheer level of inactivity and misdemeanours outside of the sport mean that there’s a significant level of uncertainty surrounding the Irishman, and many questions regarding both his current level and his potential going forward will be answered in Las Vegas later this month; a win gives him a multitude of options that most fighters can only dream of, while a loss would leave him in a bleak predicament.

McGregor’s fan base has dwindled somewhat amongst everything surrounding the star these past few years, but encouragingly he seems determined to reclaim his throne. Guaranteed wins don’t exist in MMA and Donald Cerrone is anything but a pushover, but McGregor is the firm favourite and a win here will ensure that the hype train is well and truly back up and running. Even if he loses at the T-Mobile arena, he just needs to stay active. If he can manage that then make no mistake about it, McGregor is still the biggest name in MMA and the sport is in a healthier state with him active.

More big names returning for 2020

If the return of Conor McGregor isn’t enough, global superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov will have his invincible aura tested to the maximum as he takes on perennial no. 1 contender and rival Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in a fight that’s been previously booked and subsequently cancelled on four separate occasions for numerous tragic reasons.

Ferguson is on a whopping 12 fight win streak and poses the most unique stylistic challenge to the current UFC lightweight champion. Due to it’s previous cancellations, fans have labelled this fight ‘cursed’, but have faith that it’s fifth time lucky in Brooklyn this April because this fight has never been bigger, more anticipated or more consequential than it is right now.

And what about 2019’s most spoken names, Jorge Masvidal and Israel Adesanya? These two are at the peak of their stardom right now and both want to be as active as possible this year. ‘The Last Stylebender’ has a personal rivalry with Jon Jones and has his eyes set on a mega fight with the consensus GOAT. But not before he’s met his goal of cleaning out the UFC’s middleweight division, starting with a certain Yoel Romero. The Cuban, Romero, is an anomaly of an athlete and a firm fan favourite; if you’ve never seen him in action, type is name into YouTube and you’ll quickly learn why. Straight from the horse’s mouth, Adesanya has stated that a bout between the two is close to being finalised for UFC 248 this March.

Masvidal, on the other hand, can choose to follow a number of paths – he may well take his shot at gold and take on welterweight champion Kamaru Usman; Masvidal has never fought for the belt and he’s inarguably the current no. 1 contender. He could rematch Nate Diaz, but despite some fans wanting it the chances of it happening right away are probably low. The appetite amongst senior members of the UFC and the upper echelons of MMA media isn’t there currently. What’s more intriguing, however, is the prospect of a bout with Nate’s brother, Nick Diaz. There’s early talk of this being a genuine possibility and if it does, the event will be nothing short of gargantuan.

Potential super fight on the horizon

There’s one fight, though, that would surpass each of those by a distance: Conor McGregor. Masvidal outright stated on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that Conor is his number one choice for his next fight, above even a shot at the belt. Dana White claims that McGregor has a firm eye on Masvidal’s BMF belt and the Irishman appears to have a chip on his shoulder after the UFC president claimed that Masvidal would be “too big” for Conor some months back. Keep your eye on McGregor’s post-fight speech on January 18th, because if he does the business against Cerrone he could well lay the foundations for a super fight in 2020.

If this isn’t enough to convince you, just know that these few fighters represent but a tiny portion of the UFC roster and the sheer number of mouth-watering bouts that are not just possible – but likely – to take place in 2020 make it one of the most fan-friendly sports in existence. The UFC prides itself on the best fighters consistently fighting the best opponents and it’s the adherence to that principal that makes it the most dominant fight promotion in the world. Self care is a must for 2020 and you have just a sole task: watch the UFC.