CONOR MCGREGOR is on course to return to the UFC octagon next year thanks to a speedier than expected recovery.
The Irishman shattered his left tibia and fibula in his rubber match with Dustin Poirier in July but is 'ahead' of the initial recovery schedule given to him by doctors.
His manager – Paradigm Sports Management Chief Audie Attar – told SunSport last month: "He's ahead of schedule.
"We not only just got our X-ray results [back], [we got] our ultrasound results and CT scan results.
"And when I look at the view of the X-ray myself, it's healing so beautifully.
"He's only 10-and-a-half weeks out of surgery and he's walking.
"And he's actually doing s*** that we don't want him to do like throwing the first pitch at the Cubs game."
With McGregor on course to return to the cage next summer, attention has already turned to who will be tasked with the job of welcoming him back to action.
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So SunSport thought it'd only be right to list the five front runners to face The Notorious.
Days after his UFC 268 defeat to Justin Gaethje, former Bellator lightweight champion Chandler made a beeline for Mystic Mac on Twitter.
Impressed by his three-round war with Gaethje, McGregor publicly agreed to face the 35-year-old at 'some stage'.
The fight makes sense given the pair's respective two-fight skids and would, stylistically, be an entertaining bout.
Chandler's wrestling pedigree would give McGregor trouble, as would Mac's striking be problematic for Iron.
The former boogeyman of the lightweight division should've fought McGregor after winning the interim title UFC 216.
Ferguson, however, has yet to get his hands on the Irishman or compete for the belt – which is seemingly further away than it's ever been for the Ultimate Fighter season 13 winner following three consecutive defeats.
But a fight with the out-of-form McGregor makes sense for both men, especially when factoring in their history.
The pair used to be represented by Paradigm, who Ferguson believes gave McGregor preferential treatment before he sought new representation.
Ferguson's relentless pace along with McGregor's tendency to start fast in the first two rounds is a recipe for a barnburner early doors.
And with both men in need of a win over a big name, this fight makes a lot of sense.
It goes without saying that Diaz and McGregor need to share the octagon again before their careers are all said and done.
Their legendary series, which came to fruition after an injury to former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos, is currently level at 1-1.
The pair have traded verbal jabs ever since their UFC 202 rematch in August 2016, much to the enjoyment of their respective fans.
Fan favourite Diaz has one fight left on his UFC contract, so what better way to go out than a series decider with his bitter rival.
Former featherweight champion Holloway is also contention to rematch McGregor – despite competing in a different weight class.
Like Diaz, Holloway has exchanged many a verbal jab with McGregor – although their exchanges have been a lot more light-hearted.
The pair's respective growths as fighters since their 2013 meeting has left fans eager for them to share the cage again.
And with a third fight against featherweight king Alexander Volkanovski highly unlikely for Blessed, a jump up in weight to settle the score with his old rival could very well be a possibility.
Despite having settled his series with McGregor, Poirier is still very much on the radar of his old featherweight rival.
The pair's rubber match last July ended courtesy of a broken leg for Ireland's first UFC champion, which was potentially the result of several checks from The Diamond.
The manner in which their Sin City showdown ended has some fans pining for another fight, even if Poirier ends Charles Oliveira's brief reign atop of the lightweight division next month.
A fourth fight between the pride of Lousiana and the Dubliner, however, would be an extremely hard sell given the latter's back-to-back defeats to the former interim 155lb titleholder this year.
But stranger things have happened in this sport. And as we've seen down the years, the UFC are no stranger to giving in to the demands of their cash cow.
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