Who Should Conor McGregor Grapple? A Meaningless Exercise in Speculation.
Earlier this week, Conor McGregor posted a video to his Instagram account professing his appreciation for the grappling arts. The MMA superstar even teased the possibility of competing in a professional grappling contest.
McGregor, a brown belt under Jon Kavanaugh, is not normally heralded for his grappling ability, but it is well documented that he trains with (Marcelo Garcia Blackbelt) Dillon Danis on a regular basis. But what he lacks in grappling ability, he more than makes up for in star power. McGregor has over 30 million followers on Instagram, and it is safe to say that many of those millions have no idea that professional Jiu Jitsu even exists. His posts alone garner a high level of exposure for the sport. Now, imagine the extent of exposure that an actual match would bring, it would be unprecedented.
However unlikely, the prospect of a McGregor grappling match brings forth all sorts of interesting possibilities, and since we have nothing better to do on a Friday afternoon, lets examine all of the possibilities.
The obvious first question is; who would he face? But instead I would like to start with another question; under which rules would this match be contested? The way I see it there are 4 possibilities, and I will break them down below
Possibility #1: Polaris Rules
There are several arguments for the hypothetical match to take place under this ruleset. First, both Polaris and McGregor have the UFC connection; with Polaris being broadcast exclusively on the Fight Pass platform, and Conor fighting in the UFC. Next; there is a geographical argument as well. Polaris operates out of the UK, and the strength of Conor’s fanbase resides in Ireland, so it could be argued that Polaris is the best equipped to cater to the Irish fanbase by holding the event somewhere easily reachable (UK) to the Irish fans. Or, by leveraging their experience in promoting events in that region, they could host the event in McGregor’s hometown of Dublin. Polaris is also clearly interested, as they were quick to comment and repost McGregor’s original post.
Possibility #2: Quintet Rules
The UFC connection still holds for this possibility as well. Quintet has a connection with Polaris, so there could be some synergies for a co-promotion between the two organizations. What really makes Quintet look like a possibility is that in his post Conor asked “would you like to see us both compete in it”, referring to Danis. Could he be hinting at a possible Quintet team featuring him and Danis?
Side Bar: What would be the ideal Quintet Team McGregor?
- Conor, Dillon, Artem Lobov, Dolly, Floyd Mayweather
Given all the possible team pairings, this might be the most exciting possibility.
Possibility #3: ADCC Rules
This makes sense because ADCC is probably the only organization with pockets deep enough to get McGregor on the mat. ADCC Worlds are 7 months away, that is more than enough time to negotiate a match, and ADCC has the prestige to attract a big-name opponent for one of their superfights.
Possibility #4 Combat Jiu Jitsu
This makes sense because it is an easier transition for an MMA star to still be able to incorporate ground strikes. However, this goes against McGregor’s statements around the beauty of the grappling arts, because it isn’t pure grappling. EBI has the market cornered on combat Jiu Jitsu, and they also have a close enough relationship with the UFC to make this happen. Additionally, with strikes included, this becomes more of a crossover event and is an easier sell to MMA fans.
I do not really see a Conor McGregor grappling match taking place outside of these four possibilities, unless some new promotion with the financial means to make this happen materializes.
Next, lets break down some potential choice for opponent, this is where things get very interesting.
Opponent: Garry Tonon
Why it makes sense: Tonon is without a doubt one of the most entertaining grapplers of the modern era. He has a playful scramble-oriented style that is very crowd pleasing and he is always looking for the finish. He has a history with Dillon Danis, and Conor could look to avenge the losses of his training partner and take out one of the top names of the modern era. This match would be guaranteed to have an exciting build up and would have potential to be one of the most entertaining matches of all time.
Why it probably won’t happen: Tonon recently stepped way from professional grappling to pursue an MMA career. He doesn’t appear to be a star chaser, he seems to be motivated by athletic achievement more than fame or fortune.
Opponent: Jake Shields
Why it makes sense: Shields and Conor already have a history, if you recall the water bottle throwing incident in the buildup to McGregor’s fight with Nate Diaz, a longtime friend and training partner of Shields. Jake Shields also loathes Dillon Danis and never passes up an opportunity to let everyone know. This one would definitely be heated and could also serve to buildup a rematch with Nate Diaz in the Octagon.
Why it probably won’t happen: I don’t have a good answer for this. This matchup kind of makes a lot of sense. Shields might be too big for Conor and agreeing upon a weight class could make this fall through.
Opponent: AJ Agazarm
Why it Makes Sense: What better way for Conor to gain favor in the grappling world than by taking out its least favorite representative. This matchup actually makes a lot of sense for Conor, as his style would pair well with AJs, and he would enjoy a size advantage.
Why it probably won’t happen: This matchup lacks the more compelling storylines of some other possibilities. Also, it has the potential to be a highly boring affair. AJ doesn’t have the most crowd friendly style, and he is effective at shutting down other guys with his wrestling.
Opponent: Gianni Grippo
Why it makes sense: Gianni represents Marcelo Garcia Academy, the school that Danis trained at until he was kicked out due to his behavior upon teaming up with Conor. The revenge angle could be played.
Why it probably won’t happen: Stylistically it makes no sense, Grippo has a very modern, sport-oriented style that would not cater to an audience that McGregor would bring to the table.
Opponent: Dillon Danis
Why it makes sense: They could promote this as a student vs master match. Conor would have nothing to lose because he would be expected to fall to his instructor, and they could promote Dillon as some world beater in the Jiu Jitsu sphere to hype his MMA career.
Why it probably won’t happen: Because it would be lame as fuck. Actually, I really could see this happening, I just really don’t want it to. It would be a bastardization of our sport.
Opponent: Nicky Ryan
Why it makes sense: Nicky is touted as the next big thing in Jiu Jitsu, if promoters think the sport has a future, they will want to build superstars. There is also history between Nicky’s team (the DDS) and Danis
Why it probably won’t happen: There is no way that Conor is taking a match with a 17-year-old who would most likely beat him. Easily. Conor would have nothing to gain.
Opponent: Renzo Gracie
Why it makes sense: Conor has already made millions taking on a “past-his-prime” legend of another combat sport, why not keep up the trend? The Gracie name carries recognition far outside of the jiu jitsu world and when paired with McGregor’s, would make waves on a mainstream level. This is a match you could do on its own pay per view, and you could put Danis vs Gordon/Nicky/Nick Rodriguez on the undercard. Conor and Renzo have two of the most magnetic personalities in combat sports, the lead up to this would be amazing.
Why it probably won’t happen: Because this is all ridiculous speculation based on a random Instagram post. But fuck I want this matchup so bad now that I have thought about it.
ADCC 2017 McGreogr vs Gracie – make it happen!