Conor McGregor: Absent without Leave

Contract issues, media obligations, and clashing egos have derailed what was to be the main event of UFC 200.

Initially the fight between Nate Diaz (yes his name comes first) and “The Notorious” Conor McGregor was met with collective groans, grumbles and raised eyebrows – justifiably so.

But now with the fight called off, fan opinion has quickly shifted back towards pleas for rebooking the bout. Although it appears the rematch won’t be taking place, at least not yet, let us turn to what is next for “The face of the fight game”.

For even the casual fan it will suffice to say that McGregor’s removal from the event wasn’t based simply on commercial and media responsibilities. It would be an utter waste of time to verify the “he said, she said” finger pointing between fighter and promoter. The fact is we don’t need to know the exact reasons why he was pulled from 200. What matters now is what comes next.

There are only two real options for McGregor’s next fight: he will either rematch Diaz or defend his belt against the winner of Aldo/Edgar. Needless to say this will be almost entirely at the UFC’s discretion. For several key reasons, the bout that seems to be the most probable is the Diaz fight.

This ordeal has been a bigger mess than the fight itself.

Mcgregor and Diaz were slated to be the main event at UFC 200. This was a main event that made (and still makes) all the financial sense in the world, considering the success of UFC 196. While many aspects of this prospective rematch are still undesirable, removing it from the UFC 200 has produced several key benefits.

The first of these is a sorely needed bridge between UFC 200 and UFC 205 (MSG). These two landmark events sell themselves but those unremarkable numbers in between will need all the help they can get. Dana White has stated that McGregor will likely be on one of these cards and this timeline does not bode well for a return to featherweight.

If it is true that “Mystic Mac” will fight before MSG, then it appears as though the winner of Aldo/Edgar won’t be across the cage from him. A five-round title-fight is almost never conducive to a quick recovery and return. Although Jon “Bones” Jones will be doing precisely that following his win over Ovince St. Preux, in this case, he is the exception. In fact, Jones was in a wheelchair after that fight and the swelling in his leg threated to derail his quick return.

But I digress; it seems highly improbable that McGregor will face an Interim-Featherweight Champion in his return- if that return is indeed coming between 200 and MSG. This makes his absence from featherweight a bit more palatable; after all, the new Interim Champion can hardly be expected to fight just a few months after claiming the belt. The hype and media frenzy that resulted from McGregor being pulled from 200 is another factor we have to consider.

With the spotlight back on the Featherweight Champ and his insistence to fight Diaz next, demand for this bout has never been greater. There is still the question of the prospective and arbitrary weight of 170 lbs. that has been discussed ad nauseam, as well as how long McGregor’s sabbatical will last. The real question is will McGregor ever defend his featherweight title?

Frankie doesn’t think Conor is coming back to the division. (click for article)

When “The Notorious” cuts down to 145 lbs. he becomes little more than a canvas stretched over a skeleton. Though he did make the cut without the help of I.V.s (in his fight against Aldo) he is nevertheless a better fit for lightweight.

While it is not impossible for him to suck down to featherweight, we have to wonder about the grueling process and how inclined he is to repeat it. His training partner, Gunnar Nelson, echoed these concerns and claimed, “I just don’t think he wants to do that cut again”.

My gut feeling is that McGregor will return to featherweight for at least one more fight-especially if it is Edgar who comes out as the Interim Champ. So much has been made about McGregor “ducking” Edgar and likewise, about the nature of his fight with Aldo. I just can’t see the prideful Irishman walking away from that division without shutting up the new Interim Champion.

Odds are, he will attempt to defend his belt and then permanently move up to 155 lbs. (he is much to small for welterweight).

“The Face of the Fight Game” will not be among those privileged few fighting on July 9th , 2016. He may not even be on the inaugural event at Madison Square Garden. Unless McGregor is content to sit on the sidelines for another six or seven months or the winner of Aldo/Edgar earns a quick finish or escapes unscathed, it seems improbable that “Mystic Mac” will face anyone other than Diaz. His move after that is more difficult to predict but rest assured, he hasn’t retired just yet.

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