It has been a hell of a year for the UFC who have managed to put on classics in the toughest of circumstances.
We didn’t get the Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov – shock horror – neither did we get Conor McGregor’s jam-packed 2020 and, despite Jon Jones moving up to heavyweight, we’ll never get Jones vs Daniel Cormier III.
But, we did get Cormier vs Stipe Miocic III, Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson and Jorge Masvidal vs Kamaru Usman.
So what’s next in 2021? With the world hopefully making progress towards normality again in the fight against COVID-19, UFC may well roll out some insane fights next year, which could also Nick Diaz return to the octagon. Here’s what we can’t wait for and would love to see.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Georges St-Pierre
UFC president Dana White is meeting with Khabib during UFC 257 fight week, which just so happens to have two of his last three victims headlining in Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
Khabib walked away from mixed martial arts following his victory over Gaethje at UFC 254, stating he didn’t want to fight on without his late father in his corner and revealed a promise made to his mother that meant he wouldn’t fight anymore.
If White wants to lure one of his most prized assets back into the octagon, the number one fight he can give him is the legendary Georges St-Pierre.
GSP is in the discussion for greatest fighter of all-time and as a two-weight world champion at welterweight and middleweight, it wouldn’t be a stretch for Khabib to move up – especially hearing about how much he hates weight cuts these days – and looking at the shape GSP is in, it can certainly happen.
Both men have repeatedly said they want to face each other. St-Pierre retired because White wouldn’t give him the Khabib fight, but said he would return for it and Khabib’s father always wanted his son to face GSP and reach 30-0. The story is there, but more importantly, the fight would be mad.
Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya
This has a fair bit of bad blood behind it – and it’s the one Dana White would love to make.
Adesanya, the UFC middleweight champion, says he grew up a huge fan of Jones, but became disillusioned with him as he continued to make mistakes outside of the octagon.
Adesanya has been tipped to move up to light-heavyweight shortly and Jones has just moved on from 205lbs to heavyweight after nearly a decade of dominance in that division.
Jones has beaten the absolute best over a few generations at light-heavyweight and he is undoubtedly one of the best to ever step inside the octagon. Adesanya, 20-0, is carving out his own legacy but these two are magnetic to each other.
The bitter insults have flown back and forth on Twitter, but the middleweight king really thinks he’s the man to put Jones out to pasture.
Believe it or not, Jones is only two years older, both men are 6ft 4in and while Adesanya needs to pack on some muscle, he has stated he is willing to meet Jones at heavyweight.
Zhang Weili vs Joanna Jędrzejczyk II
White called this the best female MMA fight of all-time and quite possibly the best fight in UFC history, regardless of gender.
The pair met in March, 2020 at UFC 248 and proceeded to just trade punches for the whole contest.
Jędrzejczyk was left looking like an alien with a swollen forehead after the contest and that is the image that remains embedding in MMA fans’ brains, but the two women lifted the female side of the sport to heights not seen since Ronda Rousey’s prime.
Both women have said they want to do it again and it’s hard to say what fight White has on his hands that’s more attractive than watching those two go hammer and tong again in the women’s strawweight division.
Brock Lesnar vs Stipe Miocic
Yes, Brock Lesnar is still a free agent from WWE and open for business.
Now 43 years old, he’s obviously not the prime specimen he was when he won the UFC heavyweight title 12 years ago, but he’s certainly the biggest box office draw the heavyweight division could have today and that includes Jon Jones.
That appeal has always had a hold over UFC kingmaker White and the president has remained open-minded with having Lesnar back at every pass.
When his contract lapsed with WWE last summer, both champion Miocic and Jones immediately started jostling for position to get a shot at Lesnar.
WWE legend Kurt Angle says Lesnar would return for a showdown with Jones, but a shot at regaining the title would surely carry some heavy allure for the Beast Incarnate, too.
Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington
This is another fight that writes itself. These two used to be best friends and training partners, but now it couldn’t be more different.
Covington had a complete character change during his UFC journey, a change that many believe took place because he feared for his job. Now, he’s vocal in being pro-Donald Trump and in his attempt to be the most hated man in UFC.
Masvidal has had a polar opposite rise. With impressive knockouts over Darren Till, Ben Askren and then stopping Nate Diaz, Masvidal went from UFC journeyman to their number two superstar behind Conor McGregor.
The pair originally fell out when Covington reportedly refused to pay their coach following a fight and the bad blood has only got worse since then. Both men want this fight and with welterweight Kamaru Usman busy with Gilbert Burns, it seems a no-brainer.
Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov
Speaking of no-brainers, is there anything that makes more sense for UFC financially than rematching McGregor and Khabib?
No, is the answer. They have one of the most heated and real rivalries in the history of the sport and the pay-per-view they headlined is comfortably the most bought PPV in UFC history – by miles, in fact.
Khabib has been hesitant to give McGregor another shot believing the Irishman must earn it first. Notorious seems to be in the process of doing that right now, so them meeting in 2021 is not out of the question.
Several reports have indicated that the UFC themselves are desperate to make the fight again.
McGregor certainly wants his chance to write the wrong of UFC 229 where Khabib comfortably dispatched him, it’s just all about Khabib.
If he comes out of retirement and gets his GSP fight, does a showdown with McGregor follow?
Dustin Poirier in January might have something to say about that, mind.