Simon Says: The Day Draws Near, The Future is Unclear
August 26th is a day that MMA fans are uniformly looking forward to. Some have bought in hard. Others will tune in only for the spectacle. But, across the board, all MMA fans will be happy when Mayweather/McGregor happens because afterwards an entire UFC division can begin to move again.
Even the most sour, cynical fan viewing this fight as nothing more than a desperate money grab will have reason to celebrate on August 26th. For the following day marks what should be a return to business as usual with McGregor back in the UFC to face a hungry line-up of ridicously exciting match ups.
It is true that McGregor/Ferguson, McGregor/Diaz 3, and McGregor/Nurmagomedov won’t come close to the numbers May/Mac is set to reach, but not every fight can be the biggest damn fight/spectacle of all time. While some MMA fans are incredibly excited for the main event on August 26th there cannot be one purist who would favour this extravaganza over one of the other three match-ups listed above. And to their credit, the UFC has been able to build yet another potential rival to these very clear front-runners.
At UFC 216, Lightweight top contender Tony Ferguson will face #7-ranked Kevin Lee (not be mistaken for the notable Kevin Lee) for the Interim Lightweight Title. By all accounts an interim-champion is guaranteed a title unification bout, but the UFC has been known to (gasp!) bend the rules for their stars. Should they deem a trilogy fight with Diaz — or any other matchup — to be a more prudent business decision, we very well may see the Interim Champion pushed to the back burner.
The creation of an interim title seems to be an unnecessary risk on the UFC’s part. They have an unknown quantity in Kevin Lee who if he manages to win — and that is more than possible — will be gifted the biggest fight in combat sports. Obviously Lee cannot at this point do numbers comparable to Ferguson or Diaz, so why would the UFC not wait for the Ferguson/Nurmagomedov fight or forgo an Interim Lightweight Title altogether? Even if UFC 216 is in need of a big fight, this interim belt could create more problems than it solves.
The UFC has gone brazenly and blatantly against norms when it comes to their favoured son. But once an interim title holder is established, only an injury can force a champion to take anything but a unifying bout. We saw that happen with Robert Whittaker being left out of the Bisping/GSP fight, but it would be naive to imagine that the UFC will be betting on an yet another injury. Moreover, one has to question whether or not Bisping/GSP would have been made regardless of Whittaker’s ability to compete.
The UFC obviously wants Diaz/McGregor 3. The question is do they want it enough to turn their backs on convention and leave a newly minted interim champion on the shelf for no meritocratic reason? All this is very much up in the air until the shenanigans on August 26th are over, but there remains yet more possibilities that are at once more absurd and unpalatable.
Should McGregor have a passable performance against Mayweather we very well may see him fighting another boxer. He has stated that he intends to fight in both MMA and Boxing and so anything besides a spectacular KO loss or lopsided blowout could spell an extended hiatus from the Octagon. Another possibility is the Irishman simply taking his money and walking. His purported $100 million payday is something the UFC cannot possibly match. Although he certainly earned more than the disclosed $3 million in the second Diaz fight, the fact remains that the UFC cannot offer anything remotely close to his Saturday night purse.
The appearance of Zuffa Boxing is yet another indicator of both the UFC’s and McGregor’s interest in continuing to explore the world of boxing. The promotion’s foray into the world of boxing is almost completely contingent on the Lightweight Champion’s performance this Saturday. If McGregor was to somehow win he would undoubtedly rematch Mayweather and certainly fight other boxers down the line. Zuffa Boxing would assuredly play a role in any of those future endeavors.
Many people are looking forward to August 26th. Some want to see a wife beater getting bludgeoned. Others are looking for history to be made. Yet more are just watching as a way to kill another Saturday night. But MMA fans are conflicted. They want their horse to win, but if he does they might never get him back. That might also be the case if he loses admirably. If all goes to plan though, McGregor will be back in black and gold defending a title for the first time in his life, fingers crossed.