Conor McGregor graces cover of Sports Illustrated, says staying at 145 lbs would have been choosing “easy contest”

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Conor McGregor (Photo credit Gary A. Vasquez © USA Today)

In what is just severely unfortunate timing, it was announced Tuesday morning that Conor McGregor will be featured on the cover of the latest edition of Sports Illustrated.

McGregor has been preparing for a fight with Rafael dos Anjos for the UFC Lightweight Championship next week at UFC 196, but that fight is no longer happening after an injury to dos Anjos. McGregor may wind up taking another fight on the card, but his plans on becoming a two-division champion may be on hold for the time being.

However, that may not mean he moves back down to defend his Featherweight Title anytime soon, as he discussed his reasoning for leaving the division to go after the lightweight division with SI.

“You know, I could have chosen an easy contest. I could have stayed in the division. But really what else is there to do?” McGregor said. “I have beaten everyone in the 145-pound division. Jose [Aldo] was the longest reigning champion. He is the only champion in the 145-pound division. He was the pound-for-pound No. 1 on the roster. He had beaten everybody. I had beaten everybody. Then I beat him in 13 seconds.

“There’s no one really there just yet. I’d like to see a couple of them throw down and look to build that interest back up again. That’s what I should feel with the featherweight division personally. I feel they should compete now….True champions, they fight, compete and they work. So I looked around the landscape, and although I feel they are all inferior, I chose the one on paper who was the toughest, the current 155-pound champion.”

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the fight set for next week, and though the UFC is apparently looking for a replacement, the plan’s been blown apart.

Penick’s Analysis: It’s great for McGregor to become another UFC Champion on the cover of SI; it’s been a rare spot for UFC fighters, and he’s deserving of the coverage, it’s just a damned shame that it comes on the heels of RDA’s injury. It’s a shame for the featherweight division that he appears not to be interested in fighting there anymore, but he may have to go defend that title at some point given this latest delay.

[Photo (c) Gary A. Vasquez via USA Today Sports]

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