Five stars who could replace Conor McGregor as the face – and mouth – of UFC including Gaethje after shock retirement – The Sun
ON June 6 2020, Conor McGregor announced his official retirement from the sport of MMA.
At the tender age of 31, 'The Notorious' posted an emotional goodbye message on his Twitter account.
The Irishman leaves the sport with a legacy of two championship belts, 22 wins and endless controversies.
But which fighters' trash-talking and fighting style will live up to that of the Irish UFC king?
Here is a countdown of the top five UFC fighters who are ready to fill Conor McGregor's shoes as the next MMA superstar.
5. Dominick Reyes
Light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes has what it takes to become the next MMA superstar, if he takes notes from McGregor.
The American fighter had dreams of becoming an NFL player before his hopes were dashed and he didn’t make the team.
Instead, the 30-year old decided to take his athletic skills elsewhere and focus on a career in MMA.
He joined the UFC roster in 2017, and quickly amassed a 12-0 record.
The light heavyweight has proved to be a well-rounded fighter who uses savage knock-out power to finish most of his opponents.
Reyes' undefeated record was put to the test against light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 247 on 9 Feb 2020.
He delivered a solid performance throughout five rounds and many fans pegged Reyes as the winner.
However, the judges ultimately scored a unanimous decision win in favour of Jones.
The controversial ruling caused an uproar among viewers, and UFC president Dana White has expressed interest in organising a rematch.
If 'The Devastator' can beat Jones for the 205-pound crown, he will certainly join McGregor and other champions as UFC royalty.
However, the star is hardly known for causing a stir and keeps his private life under wraps.
He might have to learn a few trash-talking tips from the Irishman if he hopes to gain the same level of exposure.
4. Jorge Masvidal
The Miami fighter’s rocky road to success might rival Conor McGregor as one of the most interesting stories in UFC history.
Jorge Masvidal came from humble beginnings and was born in the US to immigrant parents.
According to 'Gamebred', his father came from Cuba in a self-made raft when he was young and ended up on the Virgin Islands.
His father was later imprisoned for more than twenty years on manslaughter and drug trafficking charges.
As a teenager, Masvidal began getting into street fights against anyone and everyone.
Footage can be found online of a young Gamebred bare-knuckle fighting in the backyard of MMA star, Kimbo Slice.
He eventually traded street fights for the MMA cage where he tallied a chequered record of wins and losses.
However, that all changed when he faced Ben Askren at UFC 239 in July 2019.
The former Bellator champion immediately went for the takedown which Masvidal predicted and counteracted with a flying knee.
The devastating move immediately knocked out Askren and earned Gamebred the fastest knockout win in UFC history.
His showstopper victory and fearless attitude also earned Masvidal the nickname, ‘The Baddest Motherf*cker’.
McGregor’s former opponent, Nate Diaz argued that the nickname belonged to him.
The pair eventually fought it out for the first-ever ‘Baddest Motherf*cker’ title at UFC 244 in November 2019.
The 35-year old proved to be the better fighter and beat Diaz for the ‘BMF’ belt.
His blockbuster fights certainly rival McGregor's as some of the best in UFC history.
However, Masvidal is currently at odds with UFC boss Dana White after feeling he is underpaid for fights.
Unless he can come to an agreement with the company, the ‘BMF’ king’s legacy might be in jeopardy.
3. Darren Till
British middleweight fighter, Darren Till is as well known for his joker personality, as he is for his top-notch fighting.
During the lockdown period, 'The Gorilla' has spent his time hilariously mocking UFC fighters online, sharing his love of food and posting random memes to Instagram.
He recently moved up a weight class after suffering two devastating losses to welterweight stars, Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal.
The 27-year old made the right decision as he battled it out against Kelvin Gastelum for three rounds at UFC 244 in 2019.
He edged ahead of his opponent to seal the split decision win.
During his post-fight Octagon speech, Till became emotional as he celebrated his return to victory.
The redemption story and funny Instagram moments have made Darren Till an instant fan favourite.
'The Gorilla' is expected to face former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker next.
If he can beat the Kiwi fighter and work his way towards a championship shot, Till might be the UK's answer to McGregor.
2. Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya’s meteoric rise to UFC stardom rivals that of the former Irish champion.
The New-Zealand fighter joined the UFC roster in 2018 and has already tallied 8 consecutive victories against the toughest opponents.
In 2019, “The Last Stylebender” earned his first title shot against the reigning champion, Robert Whittaker.
During his fight entrance, Adesanya set a new precedent by executing a faultless dance routine worthy of a Michael Jackson music video.
He carried that momentum into the Octagon. The undefeated fighter delivered an onslaught and knocked out Whittaker in the second round to claim the 185-pound crown.
Just like McGregor, Adesanya’s creative striking and charisma has made him an MMA star.
He also isn't afraid to call out fighters and insult them with verbal missiles.
For several months, 'Stylebender' has been embroiled in an ongoing feud with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
He slammed the UFC star for his recent arrest and accused him of dodging matchups.
Adesanya's dancing swag and trash-talking antics might fill Conor McGregor's shoes as the next UFC superstar.
1. Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje is ready to step up and take McGregor’s place as the next lightweight legend.
Known as ‘The Highlight’ for his highlight-reel finishes, Gaethje is arguably the biggest rising star on the UFC roster.
Despite suffering two losses early on against Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alverez, the 31-year old has bounced back and is better than ever.
He combines caveman brute force with precision to dismantle fighters including McGregor’s last opponent, Donald Cerrone.
The pair faced off in 2019 and Gaethje finished 'Cowboy' Cerrone by knockout in the first round.
McGregor’s other former opponent, Khabib Nurmagomedov was scheduled to defend his belt against Tony Ferguson last month at UFC 249.
Due to restrictions surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, Khabib had to withdraw and Gaethje filled in as a last-minute replacement.
To the shock of many fans, 'The Highlight' rose above the top-ranked contender and delivered the stronger performance.
With another statement win to his name, the lightweight star might have his first title shot just around the corner.
Gaethje will surely have McGregor fans on his side if he faces the Irishman's foe and lightweight champion Khabib in September.
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