With Conor McGregor’s UFC 196 loss, he’s likely heading back to featherweight to defend his title next. Should that fight come against Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar, and why? Which one do you think the UFC actually books?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I’ve gone on the record a number of times saying that Frankie Edgar deserves the shot since Jose Aldo lost his title in December, and nothing that’s happened since then has made me change my mind. Aldo has an obvious case for an immediate rematch in the featherweight division. If you believe such things should happen, and I’m not really a fan, there’s few that are more deserving of trying to get the belt back right after they lost it. The guy went ten years without losing. He was the only champ the 145 pound division ever had prior to Conor McGregor. He successfully defended his UFC title seven times. You can’t deny his merit.
Edgar’s case is compelling as well. He’s won five straight fights, including an utter dismantling of top contender Cub Swanson. Where Aldo won a hard fought decision against the second best guy in the division (at the time) in Chad Mendes, Edgar came out and knocked Mendes unconscious in just over two minutes. He’s been dominant, and only getting better. Let’s not forget, Edgar would have his own claim on history if he could win at 145, that of being one of only three people ever to hold titles in numerous weight classes in the UFC. There’s some history for you.
I’d always felt bad for Aldo. Here we had one of the greatest fighters ever, but he was also one of the most under appreciated. He fought in a division that generally didn’t capture much interest, and he wasn’t all that great at selling himself either. Champions in the UFC have pay-per-view escalators in their contracts which give them a cut of the UFC’s money once certain buy rate thresholds are hit. It’s the biggest way for a fighter to cash in on his career. The interest in Aldo was low enough that he never hit any of those escalators, McGregor fight notwithstanding. In a sport where competitors can have a very limited shelf-life, it was hard to see one at the top who wasn’t making tons of money.
I say felt, though, as in past tense. Now he just annoys me, at least, when I bother to give him any thought. His threats to hold out for nothing less than a championship match, like anyone really cared about him or wanted to see him, struck me as particularly oblivious. Saying he’d fight McGregor anytime and anywhere, and then not taking the fight when Rafael dos Anjos was injured was irksome. It stops meaning “anytime, anywhere” when you add after-the-fact qualifiers to it. Conor McGregor took tough fights against Mendes and Diaz on short notice without so much as blinking. Aldo averaged less than two fights a year over the course of his title reign, and he had an annoying habit of having to pull out due to injury. Had he shown up to UFC 189, he’d have already gotten his immediate rematch in December at UFC 194 (assuming he lost). Now we’re saying the featherweight division has to promote the same championship fight for the third straight time? I’ll pass.
In an attempt to bolster his case over Edgar, Aldo pointed out that the former Lightweight Champion lost to him. He’s right, Edgar did lose to Aldo. But you know who he didn’t lose to? Conor McGregor, and he certainly didn’t do it in 13 seconds. It almost certainly took Aldo literally more time to tweet about wanting to contest the featherweight belt than it did for him to lose it in December. Edgar is the fresher matchup, and he’s the guy that keeps getting passed over. Who else do you even make him fight at this point? Let Aldo sit for the next shot if he really wants to or have him win a fight against someone else in the division.
Who does the UFC book? I go back and forth on this one. Aldo is managing finally managing to interject himself into things and turn the feel of it into more of a rivalry. He’s taken shots at McGregor prior to and after the Notorious one lost to Diaz. While it may come across as petty, the personal nature of his verbal attacks are making things a bit more interesting. He acted as though he were above McGregor during the buildup to their first tussle, like McGregor was so far beneath him he didn’t really have to acknowledge him as a fighter. He’s certainly changed his tone since then, going so far as to call McGregor a pussy after his loss to Diaz and even criticizing his punching power saying the champ has “hands of soap.” Granted, these were the same hands of soap that flattened him in a championship fight record 13 seconds, but for Aldo, that’s besides the point. The UFC usually goes with what makes bigger money, but if this fight is really going to be on UFC 200, they might not need to take the hugest possible featherweight match up on an already stacked card. It may just be too cruel to pass Edgar up for another time,or make him fight another top contender to get to a title shot he already deserves. I’ll go out on a hopeful limb and say that Edgar fights McGregor next, with a good chance at making some history of his own.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I would favor giving the fight to Aldo, because he had a 10 year undefeated streak before losing to McGregor. However, at the same time, Edgar would also be a great choice. I would choose Aldo, but would be happy with Edgar as well. I think the UFC books Edgar, though. There’s a bunch of reasons for that, including but not limited to, Aldo has been outspoken about conditions in the UFC regarding fighter pay. He’s ruffled a lot of feathers in the UFC offices with his complaints. They would put up with that if Aldo were a draw, but he’s proven to not be much of a draw, so they won’t. There’s also the injury issue. If the UFC books Aldo-McGregor 2, they would be holding their breath every time the phone rings leading up to the fight, expecting a call saying that Aldo is hurt and has to pull out of the fight. Combine those 2 things and the UFC isn’t going to be all that excited about booking Aldo in the title fight. I think the UFC goes with the safe call and books Edgar-McGregor.
DAN MOORE, MMATORCH UK COLUMNIST
UFC 196 is going to make a lot of people some serious cash, but in terms of planning for UFC 200 and beyond, this event was a disaster. Delete Welterweight Championship, insert Featherweight Championship. Delete Robbie Lawler, insert Jose Aldo. My personal preference would be to see Frankie Edgar get the shot, but it’s inevitable that the UFC will grant Jose Aldo a rematch instead.
It’s hard to criticise either option even though Aldo lost to McGregor in thirteen seconds last December. Despite that, going undefeated as the only UFC Featherweight Champion until that point deserves some opportunity for redemption. I’m still bored of the whole McGregor vs. Aldo back-and-forth so I’d rather see a fresh match-up and have Aldo fight the winner. Edgar has the pedigree and he’s a more popular opponent even if Aldo is the more deserving. Sadly my head says Aldo and that’s who the UFC will go with next.
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