Helwani’s MMA thoughts: Conor’s 2020, Masvidal’s options, Jones’ move up

MMA news

With the new year underway, it’s time to officially put 2019 to bed.

We gave out 25 awards on Monday’s show, a great time was had by all, but now I am ready to start seriously thinking about 2020.

As we’ve said before, it should be an incredible start to the decade. With names like Conor McGregor, Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and (hopefully) Israel Adesanya already slated to compete, you can’t ask for much better than that if you’re a fan of this great sport.

But even regarding the fights already lined up, I have a lot on my mind. A lot of concerns. A lot of questions.

So, without further ado, here some pressing questions that I’m hoping will get resolved in 2020:

Will Conor McGregor fight three times this year?



UFC president Dana White says Conor McGregor is willing to fight again in April vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov in case Tony Ferguson is unable to fight.

The last time McGregor fought three times in a calendar year was 2016. Technically, it’s not that long ago, but so much has happened to him since. He has repeatedly said that fighting three times is his goal for this year and that he is treating 2020 like a season. Great. Can he get this done? Can he stay out of trouble? Even if he doesn’t win all three fights, if he actually competes three times this year it would be a massive victory for him and the UFC.

Will Jorge Masvidal finally fight for a UFC belt?



Jorge Masvidal states his desire to face Conor McGregor if he wins his fight against Donald Cerrone, but only if McGregor is interested as well.

The resurrection of Masvidal’s career was by far the biggest story of 2019. Now the question is, will he finally get a chance to fight for a belt after 17 years in the game? It appears as though he can fight for the welterweight title next, but as he said on Monday’s show, he’s waiting to see if McGregor beats Donald Cerrone next week and if a bigger-money fight with McGregor materializes. Regardless, it would be quite the story to see him in a title fight after all these years. This year is his best shot.

Will Jon Jones finally test the heavyweight waters?

Jones is scheduled to compete against Dominick Reyes on Feb. 9. If all goes well for Jones there, is there an obvious next opponent for him? There will always be someone like Corey Anderson out there, but this could be the perfect time to finally move up to heavyweight. I’m not saying he should vacate the title, but how about taking a tuneup fight up there to see what it’s like, much like when Anderson Silva moved up to light heavyweight to fight James Irvin in 2008 in the middle of his middleweight title reign? If he does it, I think he’ll be happy with the results.

Will Daniel Cormier get his retirement fight?

Cormier was ready to go on Dec. 14. However, Stipe Miocic was and still is recovering from eye surgery. At this point, DC is hanging around for one fight and one fight only: the trilogy bout versus Miocic. First and foremost, we hope Miocic makes a full recovery, because eye surgery is no joke. And when he does, I hope the UFC completes the trilogy right away so Cormier can move on with his life and so the heavyweight division can continue to evolve as well.

Will the UFC women’s featherweight title get defended even once?

No one seemed to care that the 145-pound belt wasn’t defended a single time in 2019 because a) Amanda Nunes, who is also the champion at 135, fought twice, and b) there just aren’t any contenders out there. However, Nunes pushed for her fight against Germaine de Randamie to be a featherweight fight (to no avail) because she wants to be an active champion (or maybe she just doesn’t like carrying around the old version of the UFC title belt anymore?). In any event, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nunes pushes for a featherweight fight in 2020. The question is, though, against whom? Is Megan Anderson ready? I don’t think so. Is anyone else remotely close to Nunes? Maybe if Felicia Spencer wins a couple of quick ones, she’d get the shot. In the end, as long as Nunes is the 135-pound champion, I don’t suspect the UFC will get rid of the 145-pound division. But it does feel like that old belt is going to start getting a little dusty.

Will Bellator get aggressive again in the free-agent market?

Bellator didn’t make the same kind of splash in free agency as it did in years past, but it feels like the promotion is primed to be aggressive again. Why? There are strong rumors Bellator will land on CBS and Showtime this year, and you’d have to think if it does, it will want to debut with some appealing, new names.

Will Nick Diaz actually fight?

The jury is still out on this one. His desire to fight Jorge Masvidal was met with mixed reviews, and whatever momentum that idea had seems to have cooled off considerably. Problem is, a lot of people want to fight Masvidal, including Nick’s younger brother, Nate. If Nick’s goal is to fight Masvidal and no one else, a lot of things will have to go his way for that to become a reality.

Will Leon Edwards finally get his due?

Edwards went undefeated in 2019, but it still feels like he got the short end of the stick because Masvidal became a superstar following their confrontation backstage in London, while Edwards had issues breaking through. If McGregor beats Cerrone, I can see this scenario playing out: McGregor fights Masvidal, Usman fights Edwards. So, if I’m Leon Edwards, I’m rooting for a McGregor win on Jan. 18. If Cerrone wins, I can see this scenario playing out: McGregor fights Diaz again, Usman fights Masvidal and Edwards, well, Edwards just has to keep on winning until he gets his shot.

Will the PFL freshen things up?

The PFL got a jump on its offseason by recently signing Rory MacDonald and Johnny Case. Great start. Now give me 20 or so new faces like those and I will really be excited about Season 3. The organization is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint when it comes to the roster. Part of the problem has been that, per old fighter contracts, the majority of the fighters who make the playoff semifinals were guaranteed a slot next season. That meant a lot of the most dominant fighters returned, and it also meant fewer fresh faces. But I’m told the PFL has gotten rid of that clause. That’s good.

Will the UFC head to Africa?

With African-born champions Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman becoming stars, the time is now to debut in Africa. Plus, with names like Francis Ngannou, Sodiq Yusuff, Don Madge and others thriving, the UFC could do an Africa vs. the world card. Wouldn’t that be something? Time to capitalize on this boom.

Will the UFC and Reebok go their separate ways?

In 2015, the UFC and Reebok signed a lucrative six-year deal. I don’t think it’s a hot take to say this relationship hasn’t been great for either party. The launch stumbled out of the gate with typos in fighter names on what in my opinion was poorly designed gear, and things never really got on track. I don’t think the UFC uniform is going away, but one wonders if Reebok will say “no mas.” We’ll know by the end of this year.

Will Zuffa Boxing actually be a thing?

We are approaching the three-year anniversary of Dana White talking about Zuffa Boxing being on the verge of becoming a thing, yet nothing has actually happened yet. I have no doubt White wants it to happen, because his love for boxing has never gone away. But for one reason or another, it hasn’t gotten off the ground. I honestly don’t think the UFC model would work in boxing, because I don’t think the boxers would like not having the freedom they have now when it comes to sponsors, drug testing and TV platforms. But at some point it would be nice to know if this will happen.

Will One Championship debut in America?

The promotion has teased an American debut for over a year now, but is it really worth it? Does the Singapore-based company have the roster to make an impact here? Why not just focus on Asia, where One’s bread is buttered? In addition to that, One pumped the breaks on its spending spree in 2019. Is that a warning sign? Whatever happened to Vitor Belfort debuting over there? One’s development is a story to watch, no doubt.

Now that Cris Cyborg has signed with Bellator, this trilogy bout is the biggest women’s fight out there. And with the shortage of contenders at 125, 135 and 145 pounds, it will be tempting to make this fight again. But it seems too soon. Wait at least one more year. Let Nunes and Shevchenko continue to dominate, and then revisit. It will be much bigger next year.

Will Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson happen?

Yes. Please, yes. That is all.

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