What a year it has been! I don’t know about you but I for one am ready for 2020 to be over. While we still have a few fun fights to look forward to this year, like the upcoming UFC 253 with double-header title matchups – or the highly anticipated matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje in October, my curiosity has been piqued by the recent rumors of several retired fighters who will be making a return to action next year. These bouts might be even more exciting if you wager money on your favorite fighter, but be sure to first read online casino reviews before placing a bet.
Georges St. Pierre
The MMA GOAT won’t be coming out of retirement for just anyone. Since hanging up the gloves and relinquishing the UFC welterweight title in 2013, GSP had only one fight, beating Michael Bisping for the middleweight belt in 2017 and promptly retiring again. Now, rumors are swirling for St. Pierre to return to the Octagon one more time – to take on lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, for a chance to win the third divisional title for GSP.
There are many obstacles in the way of this fight happening. For one, Khabib would have to get past Justin Gaethje in his scheduled title defense at UFC 254. Then, there is the negotiating process involved to put together a match-up of this magnitude. Let’s all hope that Nurmagomedov, GSP, and UFC president Dana White will all be on the same page to make this happen.
Once a seemingly unstoppable force in the heavyweight division, Brock Lesnar has only had one MMA fight since 2011 – instead dedicating his time to wrestling for WWE. Recently it has been reported that Lesnar is no longer under contract with WWE, prompting rumors of MMA return. These rumors may not amount to much in the end, but we already have UFC’s Dana White and Bellator’s Scott Coker expressing interest in signing Lesnar if he is serious about fighting again. The leading candidates to face Brock would be Jon Jones in the UFC or Fedor Emelianenko in Bellator. Of course any fight with Brock Lesnar involved would be a must-watch freak show. In all likelihood, the 43-year-old will end up back in WWE despite the ongoing rumors.
Unquestionably, Nick Diaz has wasted a large portion of his athletic prime away from the sport. Diaz has only fought once since 2013, and hasn’t had his hand raised since 2011. However he has recently indicated a willingness to return to the UFC, going as far as doing a test weight cut to make sure he can still make 170 lbs. Is this real motivation to fight again, COVID-induced madness, or did his income stream run dry? Time will tell. And while Diaz will likely not fare well against today’s crop of top welterweights, there are interesting throwback match-ups for him in the division. Rematches with Robbie Lawler or Carlos Condit could be in the books… Mike Perry has also tossed his name in the hat to slug it out with Diaz. Even a rematch with Diego Sanchez might be bizarrely appropriate, to gauge Nick’s current level of ability if nothing else materializes.
While the first three names on this list are ‘old school’ fighters who haven’t been active in recent years, the next three are modern era champions who are on what is likely a temporary hiatus from the sport. The first of these names is the former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Despite the ongoing controversy in Jones’ personal life, he has defended his title as recently as this year; however he has looked rather lackluster in his last three outings, and has recently decided to give up the belt – presumably to move to the heavyweight division. For the 33-year-old ‘Bones’ this may be the perfect time to make the move that has long been talked about by fans, pundits, and potential competitors. Match-ups with Francis Ngannou, Stipe Miocic, Curtis Blaydes all hold promise, as well as an almost mythical potential bout with Brock Lesnar. Let’s hope that Jones can stay out of trouble outside of the Octagon and with USADA, at least for long enough to make his heavyweight debut.
No list of MMA comebacks is complete without a mention of Conor McGregor. At 32, he is the youngest fighter on this list. Even though McGregor has fought in 2020, defeating Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC 246, he announced his retirement from the sport later in the year. This is not the first time Conor ‘retired’ from MMA, so I fully expected him to fight again next year… that is until McGregor was arrested for allegedly exposing his ‘proper twelve’. This may put a damper in the return plans. But should he get off relatively unscathed, McGregor – along with Cejudo and Jones – can still compete at the championship level, potentially in multiple weight divisions.
Henry Cejudo’s announcement of retirement after stopping Dominic Cruz at UFC 249 was quite unexpected, and not taken very seriously by the MMA community. Or Cejudo himself, judging by his talk of fighting featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Should that fight takes place in 2021 and if Henry Cejudo wins the contest, he would become the first fighter to win a UFC title in three different weight classes.