Who should Conor McGregor fight next given the options opened up in the lightweight division, and why? Who do you think ultimately gets that next fight with him?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Wow. Just, wow. I’m still trying to believe what I saw last night. Did the greatest featherweight of all time just get his belt taken away in 13 seconds by the best talker the sport has ever seen? I mean, there’s no way Conor McGregor could actually back up all that insanity that comes from his mouth, right? Actually, it doesn’t look like McGregor’s predictions are big enough now. If the guy said he was going to cure cancer, I’d actually think about putting money on it. This is how legends are made. They say the most ridiculous crap imaginable and then somehow blow through those statements. No, McGregor is not a legend (yet?), but what he did last night was legendary. I mean, that match was basically a vine. If you looked down to tweet about how the fight had just started, you probably missed the whole thing.
So, what next for the UFC’s newest transcendent star? He’s already said he’s going to be a dual and simultaneous champion with a win at 155 pounds, and the UFC brass seems amendable to that idea. There’s also two very logical matches to be made in his own division. He is the champ after all, defending his title before adding a second does make a modicum of sense.
The only two opponents that currently make sense in the featherweight division are Frankie Edgar and the guy that McGregor just blitzed for the belt, Jose Aldo. There’s great arguments to be made for both of them, which means that someone is going to come out on the wrong end of things and get screwed (assuming they both don’t). Edgar has been deserving of a second shot at the belt for a while now. It was a little strange he was passed over for Chad Mendes when Aldo had to bow out of the fight at UFC 189. All Edgar has done since his own loss to Aldo is dominate every opponent the UFC has put in front of him. This includes top five ranked (at the time) Cub Swanson and a two minute knockout of the guy who gave Aldo (and McGregor) the hardest fights they had ever had in Mendes. You could argue that Edgar taking the Mendes fight was unnecessary, but there’s absolutely no point in him fighting again unless it’s for a belt.
If there’s ever a champion that warranted getting an immediate rematch, it’s Jose Aldo. Aldo was the only champion the UFC had ever had at featherweight. He successfully defended that title seven times against the best there was at 145 pounds. He hadn’t lost for 10 years, and he was dominant in doing so. Thirteen seconds or not, if Cain Velasquez can get an immediate rematch, it’s hard to say that Aldo should not.
Which brings us to our third, non-featherweight option. Rafael dos Anjos is fighting Donald Cerrone this week. The timing is perfect for McGregor’s next fight to be against the winner of that one. You think the UFC’s promoted McGregor so far, just wait until we have the first ever super fight in the UFC with the promotion’s most popular star. McGregor will sell regardless, but a fight against another champion is reminiscent of Hulk Hogan taking on the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania 6. If you’re not familiar, that’s just freakin’ huge. I don’t think dos Anjos or Cerrone would complain, as a fight against McGregor would mean a heck of a lot of money in their respective bank accounts.
Who should get the fight? For fairness’ sake, Frankie Edgar. He’s waited long enough, and there’s just nothing left for him to do. He’s done everything asked of him to get a title shot, and he’s proven he’s not just the next man up. He’s one of the best, and he deserves it. I’m not saying Aldo doesn’t have an argument, and a very good one at that, I just like Edgar’s better. I don’t really care if Aldo fights McGregor again or not. Aldo never really appealed much to the average fan, and fair or not, I apparently didn’t care as much about him as I thought after he got blitzed in 13 seconds. The other issue is that, had Aldo not gotten hurt training and made the fight at UFC 189, he would have had his immediate rematch Saturday night. Edgar would be in the exact same position he is in now, getting a shot against the winner of said rematch. Injuries derail enough things for fans that I don’t feel so bad about this being a reason.
If Anthony Pettis was the champ at lightweight right now, I’d sign McGregor to that match in a heartbeat. Dos Anjos is not a good matchup for McGregor, and Cerrone isn’t much better with his solid, all around skills and six-foot tall frame. In a perfect world, Pettis beats Alvarez, retakes the title during the first quarter of 2016, and squares off against McGregor in a champion vs. champion fight at UFC 200. A lot of moving parts, and unlikely ones given Pettis’ injury history, but that’s the dream scenario.
Come to think about it, Edgar is potentially kryptonite to McGregor’s reign as champ. He’s technically perfect, strong, and good everywhere. Mendes showed us that McGregor can be taken down and beaten up, and Edgar’s much less likely to get punched out on the feet. If I’m the UFC, I want a long, dominant, exciting rain for “Notorious,” both to rake in some cash and raise the popularity of the sport. You know what? Screw it. Give me a super fight. If history has told us anything, it’s that these things never come together, someone always loses. We’ve missed out on GSP vs. Silva, Silva vs. Jones, Weidman vs. Jones, Jones vs. Velasquez, Benson Henderson vs. GSP (okay, maybe that’s for the best). Let’s just make one of these things happen. The fairest thing is to give Edgar the title shot he earned, but screw fair. I’m a fan. I want to see something amazing. I want to see something crazy and ridiculous. I want to see two standing title holders square off. Give me McGregor and whoever is holding the lightweight belt (does it matter?), and let’s do it at UFC 200. I’ve got an extra kidney I’ll go pawn off in the meantime to cover the tickets.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
He just barely won the featherweight belt. Can we have him defend it at least once before he bails on the division? Frankie Edgar has done more than enough to earn a title shot and there is no doubt he would love an opportunity to be the one to down the loudmouthed Irishman. Edgar’s stick and move boxing couple with his wrestling would be an interesting test for McGregor, and easily the one that I want to see the most. McGregor has been stating quite a bit as of late that he is tired of the cut to 145 lbs and wants to move up to lightweight. I get it, it is a tough cut for him. But he has also talked about the idea that would be his last fight at 145 lbs while also stating that he wants the featherweight and lightweight belt simultaneously. I’m sorry, but don’t you need to cut to 145 lbs to defend the belt in order to hold it?