The frightening ease with which Conor McGregor disposed of Eddie Alvarez on Saturday night to become the first fighter in the UFC’s history to hold two belts simultaneously, sent a huge message to both the UFC & the world of MMA.
Recapping on the fight where McGregor dropped defending lightweight champion Alvarez three times in the first round and toyed with him in the second before a comprehensive four punch combo ended the contest, it makes somewhat of a mockery of the 4/5 price which was readily available on McGregor pre-fight.
In the post-fight press conference, McGregor, proudly sitting behind both belts after a somewhat embarrassing delay in the octagon for a second belt to be presented to the Irishman, stated that the ball is now in the new owner’s, WME-IMG, court. “Where’s my equity? Where’s my share?” McGregor asked in reference to the new ownership, where a list of high profile celebrities such as Conan O’Brien have a share in the company.
These questions seem extremely valid when their prize asset – and make no mistake, Conor McGregor is the biggest draw in the UFC, one of the biggest in world sport – has apparently not even been contacted by the new owners.
McGregor comes to this negotiation table with two belts having made history. Two belts which have been won emphatically. Knocking out MMA legend Jose Aldo in a record 13 seconds then on Saturday dealing with Alvarez without moving out of first gear.
He also comes with the knowledge he could never fight again and a string of opportunities to make millions at his door. WWE Kingpin Paul Michael Levesque, AKA Triple H’s attendance on Saturday would have set tongues wagging over a possible move to the wrestling world. If Floyd Mayweather can knock out The Big Show, McGregor’s left cross would be a welcome addition to the WWE.
This option seems a stretch though given McGregor’s apparent distaste for the world of ‘celebrity’ & the fact this is a fighter slap bang in the middle of his prime. Although there is an argument that the options are endless, sensible thinking would point to five genuine UFC contests.
Business, share, equity & contract issues aside, McGregor holds the featherweight & lightweight belts. Having knocked out Aldo in December of 2015, leaving an almost indelible mark against Aldo’s soul, this belt has not been defended.
There is a swell of opinion that this has somewhat diminished the value of this division, Aldo (the current interim champion) himself threatening to retire completely from MMA if a rematch isn’t made. Having the biggest draw in the game as you’re title holder can only be seen as a positive and this, combined with the fact that given Aldo’s five year reign in the UFC (alongside his stellar career until that point), has earned him the right for a second bout with McGregor, a rematch seems a valid option.
Defending the lightweight title may not be as simple. In recent weeks, Tony Ferguson has continued his 9-fight win streak by dismantling former lightweight king Rafael Dos Anjos in the ‘Fight-of-the-night’ in Mexico which for many establishes him as the no.1 contender for McGregor’s new strap.
Flip to arguably the most feared man in the division, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who defeated the accomplished striker Michael Johnson on the same NYC card this past Saturday night and you have dilemma. Khabib’s victory took his MMA record to a flawless 24-0. Add to this a great promo job post-fight by the victor, calling out not only the “chicken” McGregor but basically all of Ireland and this fight now sells itself.
This then leaves heavier options. One of which McGregor skirted around during the UFC 205 pre & post-fight talk, to move up a further weight & contest current middleweight champion Tyrone Woodley.
How serious McGregor is on this option is difficult to say. He has famously stated, “doubt me now” and I certainly wouldn’t in his ability to shock the world again, however Woodley’s ‘Fight-of-the-night’ winner with Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson at NYC being instantly installed for a rematch makes this fight less of a reality.
Looking back across the week, McGregor’s off stage confrontations with both an intense stare down with Woodley & words exchanged with Khabib now seem calculated & thought out. His ability to predict the future has become legendary and if this was indeed Mystic Mac having these confrontations to then find himself in the octagon with one of these two in 2017, no-one would now be surprised.
The last of the ‘heavier options’ sits in the Diaz family of which they may fight for the shot! Nate’s (Diaz junior) two fights with McGregor have already gone into UFC folklore when the once untouchable McGregor was forced to tap in their first bout in April this year.
McGregor then achieved redemption, beating Nate in a brutal five round contest in August, both fights at 170lbs. The trilogy is almost inevitable but is the time right given Nate’s lack of activity & profile since that loss? The return of Nate’s big brother Nick from a year’s suspension (from a failed drug test at UFC 183) has many in the MMA world dreaming of a new McGregor-Diaz battle. Nick Diaz’s notorious short fuse being matched with the Notorious One would surely bring the internet to a close in the build-up to a really intriguing match-up of striking & MMA styles.
The question here could lie with whether the UFC’s new owners would be quite prepared for a predictably X-rated build up given the sport’s new found place somewhere near the mainstream.
Whatever option Ireland’s two-weight champion chooses, whether the UFC decide to grant him his equity, his share, or if we don’t see McGregor back in the octagon for some time, this is now Conor’s world & I for one and enjoying the ride!