Since he exploded in popularity in UFC and became one of the most talked-about MMA fighters in the world, WWE has made no secret that they would love to have Conor McGregor step inside the squared circle and maybe even face one of their Superstars in a high-profile match. It seems incredibly unlikely at this point, for dozens of reasons, but if WWE were ever able to convince McGregor to make the leap, who would they have who could possibly headline a PPV against one of the best UFC fighters in recent memory? Well, we gave it some thought, and came up with a few potential opponents.
10. The Cruiserweight Division
Let’s get this out of the way first. Conor McGregor fights in weight classes that are well under 200 pounds, and the weight limit for the smallest wrestlers in WWE, the Cruiserweights, is 205, so even some of them could outweigh him by a significant amount. If McGregor wants to face a somewhat believable opponent in terms of size, it’s pretty much the Cruisers or the women, and we’re fairly certain one of those isn’t happening. This isn’t intended as a slight to McGregor, he’s an incredible fighter in his weight class, but even though the average WWE Superstar is closer to 225 pounds than 300 these days, it’s still a land of giants, and McGregor simply isn’t one of those. And in fact, if they wanted, there are plenty of guys in the Cruiserweight Division who could probably give McGregor a heck of a fight, whether it’s a high-flyer like Kalisto, more ground-based guys like Tony Nese or Drew Gulak, or a more all-around guy with enough charisma to go face-to-face with the brash Irishman, like the man we’d like to see get the nod, Cedric Alexander.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to other, larger options, because the great thing about pro wrestling is that weight classes are mostly irrelevant anyway.
Hey, here’s a recipe for a good time: put two Irishmen in a ring together and agitate them. It’s a terrible stereotype, but McGregor obviously loves to brawl, and Sheamus is at his best when he’s allowed to give as good as he gets. There is money to be found in just letting two guys hit each other just short of as hard as they can (this is still a work, after all), and this sort of attitude is why Sheamus can secretly be one of the best workers in the company, as long as he is allowed to wrestle his sort of match. The build would b easy, as pretty much anyone would accept that these two would just want to tear each other apart, and you can have them brawl around the arenas on a weekly basis before forcing them to settle it in the ring. The dueling promos might verge on completely unintelligible at points, though.
8. Dean Ambrose
Remember, this is pro wrestling, so reality is fluid, and the fact is, Ambrose’s character is portrayed as a crazy guy who will fight anyone at anytime. It’s not hard to see Dean putting himself forward as a guy who wants a chance to step in the ring with a “real” fighter and have an insane brawl. You know, like we were promised when Ambrose challenged Lesnar but were denied due to Brock not wanting to go completely balls-out because he was already planning his UFC comeback fight and didn’t want to get hurt. If McGregor was willing to have a No DQ Street Fight and allow Ambrose to bring the plunder, we could finally get that sort of match we were expecting from Brock-Ambrose, and maybe this time it might actually be good. Plus, unlike against Brock, there’s a chance Ambrose might actually win.
7. Kevin Owens
Owens’ whole deal is that he’s supremely confident and thinks that the whole world revolves around him. Sound like a certain UFC fighter to anyone else? While recent poor booking has turned him into somewhat of a coward, Owens has made it clear in other venues that he will challenge anyone to fight him, recently saying that he would not only love to face Brock Lesnar, but that he would make Lesnar his b*tch, which takes an dangerous amount of ego, something that would be required for anyone who might want to challenge McGregor. Beneath his unique appearance is a guy who can outwork some of the best in the business, and you know he’d make it a personal point of pride to drag a good match out of the inexperienced McGregor. Plus, he’s a top guy who can lose to someone like McGregor and not have it affect his character, as it just gives him another dozen things to complain about.
6. The Big Show
When you want someone to put over a celebrity and make them look impressive in the process, especially if you want to do it on a big stage like WrestleMania, you call for The Big Show. Over the years, Show has unashamedly stepped into the ring with boxers, sumo wrestlers, basketball players, and assorted celebrities, and made many of them look like giant-killers, or at least, gotten a couple of laughs. Show’s best use is in this sort of “spectacle” match that isn’t so much about ongoing storylines but a one-off feature match that could sell tickets and Network subscriptions, so a McGregor fight would be right up his alley. Plus, it’s an obvious “David and Goliath” story that even WWE Creative probably can’t screw up. The only issue is that Show has suggested (and the fact that he’s barely been on TV in 2016 tends to lend credence to the idea) that WrestleMania 33 could be his final match, and he’s already challenged Shaquille O’Neal, which is a match a lot of fans have already been anticipating for years. Should that fall through, or Show stick around longer than expected, this could be a different option.
5. Braun Strowman
Of course, with Show supposedly on the way out, WWE has been looking for their next giant, and they may have found it in the form of Braun Strowman, the massive former strongman who is getting attention for his impressive strength and surprising agility. He’s still very green, and time will tell if he can ever attempt to fill the boots of someone like The Big Show, but he’s been working hard and doesn’t seem out of place in recent forays into the main event of Raw, plus he’s done some recent interviews where he comes across as both intelligent and eager to learn everything he can. WrestleMania 33 might be too early for him to get a high profile match with McGregor, but if his career path continues to slant upwards, it’s definitely something to think about for the future.
4. Samoa Joe
We’re going to dip down into NXT for a couple of obvious candidates, the first being the Samoan form of Godzilla, Samoa Joe. Joe has made a career out of being the biggest badass on the planet, who doesn’t just fight people, but is more than willing to hurt them if it’s the difference between victory and defeat. He is the originator of the “*blank*’s gonna kill you” chants that have permeated the sport, and rightly so. It’s another opportunity for McGregor to have a relatively stiff match with someone who can dish it out as well as take it, and the crowd would likely be on edge to see two tough guys try to absolutely murder each other in the ring. Joe should be on the main roster anyway, so let’s give him a reason to be there.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
Speaking of stiff, there’s always the King of Strong Style. Nakamura’s offense is designed to look like he’s legitimately kicking people in the face, and as Austin Aries can tell you, sometimes that’s what happens. Nakamura’s style and seeming lack of concern no matter who his opponent is would probably drive McGregor wild, because he’s a guy who seems like he wants to be taken seriously, and Nakamura’s entire deal is that he doesn’t sweat anyone. Plus, if you’re looking for credibility, Nakamura was 3-1 as an actual MMA fighter in Japan (granted, the legitimacy of those fights was questionable), so people would at least believe that he could hold his own against a “real” fighter like McGregor.
2. John Cena
Well, of course you have to go with the guy who’s been the symbol of WWE for the last ten-plus years. After all, part of what made people start speculating about McGregor fighting in WWE was a series of promos where he called WWE Superstars a bunch of derogatory terms and got called out for it. If anyone’s going to defend the (sigh) hustle, loyalty and respect of the WWE way, it’s going to be Cena. Of all the choices, this is one of the most likely, because it would almost certainly sell all sorts of tickets, merchandise, and Network subcriptions. You’ve got the whole WWE vs UFC angle, the clean-cut Cena against the brash and cocky McGregor, the ability to have great promos, and another opportunity for “Big Match John” (literally one person on the planet calls him that, and it’s JBL) to show that he can carry a guy who isn’t actually a wrestler to a decent, watchable match. This match would almost certainly headline any PPV it happened on, and WWE would likely push for that to be a WrestleMania, and the money they would make of its back would likely be insane.
1. Brock Lesnar
The other best option, if slightly worse than Cena, is to send the UFC fighter to face the UFC fighter. Failed drug tests or not, Lesnar still has the legacy and credibility from his UFC run, and is the one guy likely to be unfazed by whatever insults McGregor wants to throw, because we all know Brock doesn’t give a damn about anyone but Brock. It would be interesting to see which side a WWE audience would take, actually, because Conor and Brock have qualities that make them both extremely unlikable and extremely popular at the same time. Of course, someone would have to make sure that they drill into both men beforehand that it’s not an actual fight, because we could entirely see things getting messy if someone lands an errant potato, and as great a fighter as McGregor is, he’d still be in the ring with a guy who is a foot taller and roughly twice his weight. After all, Brock does nasty things to people when things go according to plan, what could happen if he decides to take offense to something mid-match?