McGregor's next move? Follow the money

LAS VEGAS -- Conor McGregor, the newly crowned unified featherweight champion of the world, stood alone at the dais on Saturday during a UFC 194 postfight news conference at the MGM Grand.

Donning a fresh three-piece suit, the 27-year-old Irishman asked the room how he looked but didn't wait for a response.

"I think I look good up here," he said.

And why wouldn't he? McGregor had just dethroned Jose Aldo, the most dominant featherweight in MMA history, in a 13-second knockout. He didn't even take a punch in doing so. Actually, wait, that's not true. Aldo was credited with one shot in the fight -- a glancing blow, which landed as he fell lifelessly to the canvas under a McGregor left hand. That was the extent of the pound-for-pound great's offense.

It felt as if the entire country of Ireland was on hand to witness the feat. There were videos of McGregor's fans spilling onto the Las Vegas Strip, stopping traffic. The iconic MGM lion statue in the hotel lobby might never recover from the sights of Saturday. Meanwhile, the event drew a live gate of $10.1 million. It's the highest in UFC history for a U.S.-based event.

Rather than attend traditional UFC news conferences, McGregor has now held his own media gathering after his most recent two fights. He no longer thanks the UFC for giving him the opportunity to fight in the Octagon; he thanks the fans and media on behalf of himself and the promotion. Considering that, historically, the UFC views fighters as contractors rather than partners, these are revolutionary statements.

After dismantling his most fearsome (and obvious) foe to date in Aldo, the question turns to what's next. McGregor seemed to have a few ideas on the matter, but he declined to tip his hand.

"I'll give it some time," McGregor said. "It's Christmas. In the fight game, you travel around, making weight or doing something. Christmas was taken from me many times. This Christmas was not taken from me. So, I get to go home. I've put in a hell of a lot of work. It's been a crazy, crazy year."

When McGregor does return in 2016, here's a good bet on what will, in fact, be next: whichever fight is the biggest.

McGregor has interest in moving up to lightweight to become the third man in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight classes. His coach, John Kavanagh, told ESPN.com that Saturday would "ideally" mark McGregor's last 145-pound fight.

That statement seems to conflict with McGregor's plans, though.

McGregor made it clear he has no intention of vacating the 145-pound title he just unified. Holding both would not only be historic -- the UFC has never had a champion hold belts in different weight classes simultaneously -- it would also allow him to constantly take the biggest and best fights.

"I feel there are a couple contenders in the [featherweight] mix," McGregor said. "Maybe they compete against each other while I go take the lightweight belt. Allow a contender to emerge, then I go back down and fight that contender. Then go back up after a lightweight contender has emerged. That was the career path I wanted."

The biggest featherweight fight for McGregor might still be against Aldo in the form of a rematch, but UFC officials have already indicated that's not in strong consideration. The likeliest candidate to fight McGregor at 145 pounds is former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who is on a five-fight win streak and coming off a first-round knockout over Chad Mendes on Friday in Las Vegas.

But McGregor's next fight likely hinges on the outcome of next week's lightweight title fight between Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone in Orlando, Florida.

If dos Anjos, the champion, defends the belt, McGregor would probably go with a more fan-pleasing matchup in Edgar and hold off on moving up to 155 pounds. But if the wildly popular Cerrone wins, it's a safe bet McGregor would move up for that fight.

The carrot of a McGregor title fight (in any division) at Dublin's 100,000-seat capacity Croke Park continues to pop up every time McGregor wins, but according to UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, several hurdles would have to fall into place for that become a reality.

"There always seems to be controversy when it comes to Croke Park," Fertitta said. "I want to do Croke Park, but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of hurdles that would have to be cleared. It has to be the right time. It can't be in the middle of winter in Dublin. OK, will there be an opportunity in June, July or August? Will it be available? Third, we have to get the permits, and fourth, it would have to be a PPV that would happen in the afternoon here in the U.S. due to the time difference. So, the stars have to align.

"If we could schedule it now, we'd be all-in. Who doesn't want to do an event with 100,000 people? We're all about breaking records."

For that matter, so is McGregor. With Aldo conquered (and so much so that a rematch is unnecessary), expect McGregor to go where the money is, regardless of weight.

"There are weight divisions above, waiting for me to go at. Super fights left and right," McGregor said. "Tell me one other champion that has been like that. Every other champion gets a belt and doesn't want to go up or they don't want to go down. I'm going straight up, bringing these big numbers, and the sky's the limit."