After his premonition of world dominance came full circle last weekend in the most dramatic of fashions, Conor McGregor did not waste any time to tell the world, “I told you so.”
There had been rumors circulating all week surrounding the UFC 194 event that McGregor had informed UFC brass that his unification bout with Jose Aldo would be his last outing at featherweight.
Given the MMA world’s fascination with the Irishman’s appearance on the scales before each of his UFC bouts, the intention didn’t seem too far-fetched. To add to that, McGregor had outlined his manifesto to become a champion at two weight divisions on signing for the UFC back in early 2013.
Having just knocked out Chad Mendes the day before in the headline bout of the TUF Finale, Frankie Edgar cut a forlorn figure as he awaited the beginning of the UFC 194 press conference. The former lightweight champion had been informed of McGregor’s hope of moving up to 155 lbs and having constantly been in the conversation title contention since his decision loss to Aldo, he was making it very clear that he deserved a shot at the newly crowned champion.
Even before showcasing his KO power to the world last Friday, Edgar has long been considered a potentially rough matchup for ‘The Notorious’. His in your face, grinding and volume-based style was deemed to be a nightmare for McGregor. That, coupled with his ability to put forward a dynamic game plan by seamlessly mixing his striking with his grappling, Edgar is without a doubt one of the toughest, most grueling fights on the whole UFC roster.
The vast majority of people at the press conference fully expected McGregor to announce his intentions of moving up 10 lbs as he took up Dana White’s usual position, front and center on a pedestal before the media.
McGregor wasted no time in informing the gathering of his plan to become the first fighter on the UFC’s roster to hold and defend two titles simultaneously. According to ‘The Notorious’, because he is so active, he would have little or no trouble in doing so. He added that even though he has not looked fantastic on the scales, his weight cut has yet to affect his unbeaten record or his performances under the UFC banner.
The vast majority of media members believed that McGregor’s multi-weight aspirations are not likely to happen. Sending the message through with Dave Sholler, Dana White claimed that McGregor would likely face the winner of this weekend’s lightweight title clash between champion Rafael Dos Anjos and challenger Donald Cerrone. On the back of his win over Aldo, all 13 seconds of it, you would not put another victory over either of those men past McGregor.
If McGregor was to hold both featherweight and lightweight titles, an injury to the Dubliner would completely close off the two divisions until he fully recovered. If you take his knee injury after defeating Max Holloway in his sophomore UFC outing as an example, he would be out for eleven months and when he returned he would only be able to handle a defense of one of the titles at a time. Furthermore, the power McGregor would command by owning a quarter of the UFC’s male championship belts could become quite troublesome in terms of negotiating contracts with the Irishman.
There is no doubt that there is some logic behind UFC’s apparent lack of enthusiasm with McGregor at the helm of two divisions, but they should consider the featherweight landscape without the Straight Blast Gym trailblazer.
During McGregor’s tenure, the featherweight division was pushed to the forefront of many UFC cards. Jose Aldo previously could not assume that a defense of his title would be given main event privileges before the Irishman came along, and as we saw last weekend, two whole cards gave the featherweight bracket pride of place as part of the McGregor era.
From Edgar and Chad Mendes’ meeting on Friday night, to Max Holloway and Jeremy Stephens’ clash on the main card of UFC 194, right up to the main event of the same event that saw McGregor eventually be crowned the unified champion–all the 145 lbs bouts were carefully placed incase UFC had to deal with a similar withdrawal as UFC 189. If any one was forced out, they had plenty of other options in Vegas.
Another thing that should be noted is the lack of contenders the division has. While people are right to be pushing Frankie Edgar to the forefront of the division’s contender list, outside of him and Max Holloway there are no other shoe-ins for the title picture.
Aldo was starched in 13 seconds. Mendes has been finished twice now in his last two bouts, and two fights before that he enjoyed a 25 minute war where he came up short in his second title bout with Aldo. The fans will not be convinced that he is a contender at the moment.
While many people believe that Aldo deserves an immediate date with the featherweight crown given his dominance over the years, he has lost his unique selling points in terms of his 10 year unbeaten streak and being the only UFC featherweight champ ever. Aldo too has obviously suffered a concussion at the hands of McGregor, which will put him on the shelf for a considerable amount of time.
Without McGregor, the most likely title fight is Frankie Edgar versus Max Holloway, but after that bout is contested the division will lose one of it’s biggest stars–the well-regarded former champion or the rising prospect.
UFC’s best option is to let McGregor hold on to the featherweight title as he makes his lightweight debut. If the rumors are true and McGregor gets the winner of next weekend’s bout pitting Dos Anjos versus Cerrone, if he was to win the lightweight strap he would become a double weight world champion and satisfy his need to have a belt “on both shoulders.”
In the meantime, UFC can build the featherweight division and endear the public to some new contenders. As well as that, if McGregor came up short against the lightweight champion, he could always go back down to featherweight and continue to dominate the bracket.
While holding and defending two titles has been unprecedented up until this point, Conor McGregor will give both the featherweight and lightweight divisions more attention than ever if he can hold court in both brackets.
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