The UFC Featherweight title draped around his waist, Conor McGregor walked into the MGM Grand Garden Arena at UFC 196 with the world at his fingertips.
Initially granted a title shot against the very talented, though largely unheralded Lightweight division champion, Rafael dos Anjos, McGregor was within grasp of becoming the first person to simultaneously hold titles in two weight classes. There was even talk of McGregor setting his sights on a third title, that of Welterweight division kingpin “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. McGregor, having dispatched the only Featherweight champion in UFC history in a mere 13 seconds, was supposed to receive an opportunity to make history that fateful weekend in Las Vegas.
After an injury caused dos Anjos to withdraw from the fight, longtime UFC Lightweight mainstay Nate Diaz stepped in on just 11-days notice to face the “Notorious” McGregor. A bold move on behalf of both men, the event gained near hysterical levels of hype (and went on to set attendance and gate records).
Midway through the second round of the fight, Diaz battered McGregor with a crisp 1-2 combination that stunned the Featherweight champion. A few “Stockton slaps,” some more punches, and McGregor – not dissimilar from fellow vaunted striker and former Diaz opponent Melvin Guillard – shot in for an ill-fated takedown attempt. McGregor, much like Guillard nearly seven years earlier, quickly found himself with the arm of Diaz around his neck, forced to tap out.
Conor McGregor: A New Weight
The dreams of a two-division champion, let alone a three-division champion, were blown to smithereens. McGregor himself seemed aware of this during the moment, prognosticating that his next move would very likely be a return back to the Featherweight division to defend the title that allegedly means so little to him.
A return to the Featherweight division can only mean one of two options. The first, that McGregor and his camp seem most interested in, is a rematch with former champion Jose Aldo. For his part, Aldo has been trying to garner interest in the prospect of a rematch, taking to Twitter to celebrate McGregor’s defeat, and later claiming in an interview that McGregor had, “soap hands.”
The second choice, and most fair in my opinion, is to finally award Frankie Edgar his second chance at UFC Featherweight gold. The former Lightweight champion is on a 5-fight winning streak, his most recent win an emphatic knockout of fellow contender Chad Mendes in what seemed to be a number one contender fight at the time.
Should these two options somehow fall through due to scheduling or an injury, there is an outside shot of McGregor having a rematch with up-and-coming Max Holloway. The pair fought a tough 3-round decision in 2013 with McGregor coming out on top by way of a unanimous decision. Holloway has gone on to string together an impressive 8-fight winning streak, with 6 of those fights ending via stoppage. Holloway is still lacking a “signature” win to warrant a title shot outright, but aside from the two aforementioned options presents the most intriguing matchup.
As of now, there is no official word on who is rumoured to receive the next title shot, but an in-depth breakdown of the difficulties each of these challengers is soon to come.