Conor McGregor made history with his win at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, but will that battle prove to be a preamble to a much bigger war?
After using his left hand as a stop sign every time Eddie Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) took a forward step, McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) scored a second-round TKO win and became the first fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold belts in two different weight classes.
The question is, where we go from here, because it seems like a major clash is brewing. UFC President Dana White has said McGregor will have to part with one of his belts, but McGregor doesn’t exactly seem enamored with that idea. He wants to take time off, but the UFC could use his help between now and June. McGregor says he’s not fighting again until he has an equity stake in the UFC.
Even prior to the Alvarez fight, McGregor has been open about the power he holds in deciding who he fights. When discussing future opponents, he usually talks in terms of those fighters giving him a reason to fight them as opposed to the UFC standard that he’ll fight whoever the matchmakers select next. Dana White said McGregor would have to defend his featherweight title against Jose Aldo before the end of the year or relinquish it; McGregor instead elected to fight Alvarez, and the featherweight gold still rests around his waist. Like the biggest money-drawing boxers, McGregor is able to dictate the course of his own career.
To this point, that power hasn’t come in conflict with fans’ desires to see the best fights. McGregor has sought out challenges. When many said he didn’t want to take on wrestlers, he accepted a fight with one of the featherweight division’s best wrestlers in Chad Mendes on short notice. He then fought the most dominant fighter in his division’s history in Aldo and elected to fight Rafael dos Anjos at a higher weight class when many felt it was a rough matchup. After losing to Nate Diaz, McGregor opted for a rematch against the fighter who just submitted him and did it at the same 170-pound weight rather than moving down to 155. He then targeted the lightweight champion again, even as many of his colleagues felt Alvarez would be too much for him.
Nurmagomedov could be an interesting test of how McGregor approaches his fights now that he has solidified his status as not just an attraction but an elite fighter. He could opt for the fights he thinks the fans most want to see and thus would draw the best. He could also add in another factor, the difficulty of the opponent and thus risk that the gravy train doesn’t keep rolling. The philosophy McGregor adopts could create a lasting precedent for the sport moving forward. The final betting odds were in as 2 UFC champions are underdogs headed into UFC 205 with Conor McGregor remaining the favorite over lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
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