Before we dive into this, let’s take the introduction to preface the rest of the article (but who reads a silly intro anyways, amirite?) by saying that what Conor McGregor accomplished at UFC 205 was stunning, remarkable and incredible. Spectacular. Amazing. There is no disputing what he accomplished in the cage at Madison Cube Square Garden on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, depending where you watched the fight). With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about “Mystic Mac” being just a tad bit undeserving of this rare opportunity.
The first, and most obvious issue with McGregor’s lightweight title shot has absolutely nothing to do with the lightweight division whatsoever. The featherweight division, where McGregor claimed his first crown, has been completely put on hold at the behest of one (extremely profitable) fighter.
Jose Aldo, despite the perplexingly fast knockout loss to McGregor, was and still is, deserving of a rematch given how long the former champion ruled over the 145-pound weight class. Before losing the title, Aldo was on a 17-fight winning streak, succeeding in defending the belt 7 times in the UFC, and that’s not including the additional 2 times he defended the WEC featherweight title before it transitioned to the big show. Not to mention, the most comparable situation for Aldo, would be the instant rematch given to Anderson Silva following his stunning upset loss to Chris Weidman.
This doesn’t even include other worthy challengers like Max Holloway, who gave McGregor one of his closest fights yet, and has showed a tremendous amount of improvement since their first encounter. Following the loss, Holloway has put together an extremely impressive win streak of his own, and surely would be a worthy contender.
A potential stylistic nightmare matchup for McGregor exists in Frankie Edgar, who beats everyone in front of him not named Jose Aldo. Edgar’s dynamic mix of striking and wrestling, combined with a top-notch fight-IQ raises a number of very interesting questions. Can he take McGregor down? Can he survive a barrage from McGregor? If he gets him down, can McGregor get back up? If the fight goes past a few rounds, will McGregor fade?
Lightweight Has Viable Challengers, Too
The next problem with McGregor’s 155-pound title shot lies within the Lightweight division itself. After throttling Anthony Pettis, many expected Rafael dos Anjos to provide at least temporary stability to the razor-thin margins at the top of the division. Eddie Alvarez threw a fist-shaped wrench into that plan however, and a whole host of potential opponents were available.
Khabib Nurmagomedov deserved a title shot before he beat Michael Johnson, and much like Edgar above, poses a very significant risk to McGregor with his wrestling abilities. All Tony Ferguson does is win. Donald Cerrone only left the division because of his quick loss to dos Anjos. Nate Diaz was riding an all-time high after his initial win over McGregor, and could have viably been given a title shot with another win .
The right thing to do, given that McGregor had already lost to Diaz (regardless of the weight class, Diaz was/is a 155-pound fighter) was to force Conor to prove himself at 155, against a Ferguson or Dos Anjos. 155 may be the most competitive division in the UFC right now with women’s bantamweight being second.
This is why MMA purists are upset. The money fight has overtaken what is ‘true and steadfast’ and most fear what may be coming next…
Divisions May Clog, Promotions Suffer with New Precedent
You don’t have to be a ‘scientician‘ to understand what this new precedent of ‘money wins’ will mean for the sport. It’s been a year since he won the Featherweight Championship and he hasn’t defended it yet. It may not be such a factor had he not fought in three, non-featherweight fights since. However, as the legend of Conor not being able to make 145 after the IV ban looms, the UFC seems content with simply letting the title go undefended as long as they can until rioting starts.
This simply means tough s*** for the likes of Holloway, Edgar and even Aldo despite what you may think about his willingness to fight. I think it’s obvious that McGregor/Aldo 2 would be a huge draw.
At the same time, Conor calling the shots could also end up as bad news for the UFC. In the post-fight presser, the Irishman revealed his two big secrets: He’s having a child in 2017 and he wants a piece of UFC stock. If they don’t give it to him, what’s to stop him from eventually going the way of boxing and booking his own promotions?
I’m fairly confident his team could bring together four other reasonable fights to put on a “TheMacLife Fights” promotion. Even the insanity that would be McGregor/Mayweather would generate enough revenue to financially set up Conor for life, although I think he likes fame too much to be embarrassed in a boxing ring and take his money then fade away.
This precedent that is being set, where one star gets to walk on water across the divisions is already clogging up the top of divisions. As mentioned, Aldo/Holloway/Edgar are all sitting on their hands wondering what’s going on with the belt they all want so badly.
Watch the full podcast that caused an uproar from McGregor supporters:
At 155, you have nine guys looking to become the next title holder, with the exception of Nate who doesn’t seem to care either way. This is all log-jammed, with Khabib’s 24-0 record being the biggest piece of lumber clogging the machine. As mentioned, it is very realistic that Nurmagomedov could essentially ruin Conor, which would make the UFC look horrible. Then again, I don’t think anyone thought Conor would dust Eddie the way he did.
Names over rankings (or what is deserved) is not a good precedent to set for this sport, it’s all flash and no substance. As much as we love to watch Conor, not every great athlete gets a championship based on name alone, just look at Dan Marino. Instead, when you take flash and no substance it usually seems good for a while, but then the immediate gratification wears off and you end up with (brace for Canadian reference) the Edmonton Oilers.
It just so happens, that the UFC is really good at stretching out this period of gratification.