The UFC’s golden pony, the reigning (not defending) 145 pound featherweight champion, Connor McGregor is on the brink of fulfilling the promise he made upon arriving in the UFC, with a 155 pound title fight with Eddie Alvarez just around the corner. There is every chance that McGregor walks away a two division champion, which would be a huge achievement and presents the UFC with a huge marketing opportunity, but it also presents them with a massive problem.
The Mayweather or the UFC. The main-stream attraction. The money. Connor McGregor is a lot good things for the UFC – but after UFC 205, he could be a lot of bad things as well.
McGregor entered the UFC with a mission, to, as he had done previously, hold two belts across two weight divisions. Having spent 2014 and 2015 tearing through the featherweight division, McGregor stopped the 10 year undefeated champion in Jose Aldo with one swift left hook. A 13 second stop to one of the greatest to ever walk into an octagon left many wondering how far McGregor could go in the division, but it wasn’t long before they got an answer – he couldn’t.
Having stopped Aldo and in possession of the 145 pound belt, McGregor immediately set his sights on something bigger, the 155 pound belt.
Originally scheduled to fight Rafael Dos Anjos, the champion at the time, McGregor was on the path to the top – but Dos Anjos broke his foot in the last training session before the fight and suddenly and intense rivalry with Nate Diaz was born. One all so far, a tie breaker beacons in the near future. Now he’s onto bigger things, Eddie Alvarez.
The former Bellator champion came into the UFC with all the promise in the world, but, he fell flat in the beginning. He got a lesson from Donald Cerrone and it gave him plenty to work on. He made a great first step going to New York and training with Mark Henry. A move which saw a change of fortunes, eventually he scored a title shot against Dos Anjos and, amazingly, he stopped him in the first round.
A 155 world-beater who stopped Cerrone, Pettis and Diaz, no one could believe that he was handled as swiftly. Suddenly the UFC had the Bellator version of Eddie Alvarez on his hands.
Now, the stage was set, the destroyer from Bellator and the Golden Boy – champion versus champion on the biggest card of the year, in the debut of the UFC in New York, what could go wrong?
Well, a lot really.
We are already starting to see the issues with this fight play out before a punch has been thrown. Interim featherweight champion and bitter enemy of McGregor Jose Aldo was, after beating Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 was owed a unification match with McGregor, and convention says, that it would have been McGregor’s next fight.
However, convention and Connor McGregor have never gone in the same sentence. Jose Aldo is furious with the UFC and with Dana White for allow McGregor to essentially run the company, he has given the organisation a very simple choice. Give him his rematch, or he will walk away, and judging by some of his adjoining comments, he is very serious
So now the UFC has a featherweight division which is being held hostage. It’s champion is not readily available to defend his full-time, ‘’Proper’’ belt as the rest of the champions in their respective divisions are, putting those at 145 at a disadvantage for continuing their career, with the likes of Frankie Edgar, Jeremy Stephens and Max Holloway all stringing together impressive streaks in recent months which would, in normal circumstances garter them a title fight.
It leaves the division in a difficult position as those who deserve a title shot are only left with a few options, take another fight and risk an injury, or sit out until Connor returns, which, given the leeway he is afford by the UFC, could be a while. Also, with reports from McGregor’s camp suggesting that he can no longer make the weight cut down to 145 pounds, the process could be exacerbated before anything else.
Should Connor beat Eddie, he then leaves the lightweight division stuck in the same predicament, they are waiting on the Champion to come back to weight. Fighters like Rafael Dos Anjos, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis and Cowboy Cerrone would be forced to wait on the Irishman, a prospect that few would enjoy, given the widespread dislike for McGregor across the higher weight divisions.
Connor winning would be huge for the UFC, but ultimately Connor loosing could be a better result for the sport of MMA. The sport needs champions who are available at the drop of a dime to compete and defend their gold. It respects the sport of MMA and it forces fights to happen more readily.
Given that, the perception, and in most cases, the reality is that McGregor is picking his fights, something has to be done after UFC 205, or the fallout could be substantial.