At UFC 205, Conor McGregor made history. McGregor is the first ever fighter in the UFC to hold 2 belts in two different weight classes simultaneously and joined an exclusive company as one of only three men to hold a UFC championship title belt in two different weight classes at all. This is obviously an impressive feat because, if you are a fighter and you are in the same conversation as Randy Couture and a BJ Penn in his prime then you are doing something right.
From a fight fan purist perspective, he gets it. From his “Taekwondo like” stance, he is an excellent boxer which is bananas. His hands have a combination of accuracy and power that is unmatched in both the lightweight and featherweight classes. From an entertainment perspective, he once again gets it. His ability to trash talk without making his verbiage seeming contrived or artificial makes his fights feel legitimate.
However, what if Conor McGregor’s fights are not always legitimate or what if one were to tell you he may not be the best in the lightweight division. What if the best thing for MMA is if he were to lose? One who probably does not watch MMA often would ask “Why? He is great for the UFC”. Yes, McGregor is great for the UFC but he is detrimental to MMA. To understand why one must take a look at the cases of a couple fighters.
Jose Aldo is currently known as the guy who lost to Cnor McGregor by a one punch K.O in 13 seconds. If the casual fan looks deeper than just that fight than they probably might even notice that Aldo has contemplated retirement. What the casual fight might not realize is that Jose Aldo in most people’s book is a future first ballot hall of famer. Up until Aldo took on McGregor, Aldo did not lose in the UFC. In fact Aldo had only lost once in his career before meeting McGregor. Aldo was dominant in the featherweight division; as he enjoyed a 10 year undefeated streak, had a 6 year streak as both the WEC and UFC champion (WEC was the UFC subsidiary that housed the exclusive featherweight and bantamweight classes).
So what happened? Aldo had trouble making weight. This would have Dana White himself questioning the legitimacy of Jose Aldo pulling out of fights due to injuries. Thus, when Aldo was defeated by McGregor, this could have been seen by the fans as White’s chance to move on from building Aldo as the top guy. This led to tension rising to Dana White and Jose Aldo which came to a head when Jose Aldo defeated Frankie Edgar to be interim champion. Jose Aldo was under the impression that this would mean that he would get a rematch with McGregor as his next fight. Obviously this did not happen and he has since contemplated retirement. Aldo said this to the Brazilian website Combate
To be honest, this story is shaping out to be really sad for Jose Aldo. It is not as if Aldo does not want to fight McGregor and would like to retire, it is that he believes that he deserves a rematch. Quite frankly, it is hard not to agree with Aldo. So why has Aldo not gotten a rematch? Well, I think McGregor wants to be a dual or even triple champion and the Aldo fight does not excite him. The issue is that it is not about what McGregor wants but what is right. What is right is that McGregor must give a future Hall of Famer another chance to have his pride.
Now there may be the devil’s advocate who reads this and says “well why does he have to give Aldo another shot if he beat him so convincingly”? Well when McGregor wanted to redeem himself against Nate Diaz after losing, Diaz obliged. Now there may be another fight fan who asks “Does it matter? Connor McGregor is the best in both divisions and he proved it.”
Well, I would argue that McGregor is not the best fighter in the lightweight division. That leads me to an obscure name in the lightweight division.
Many experts have been singing this gentlemen's praises for years and why not? Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov is perfect in MMA at 24-0 in MMA, 8-0 in the UFC, and has defeated the likes of Gleison Tibau and former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. For anyone who has watched MMA, let alone competed in MMA know that being 24-0 is nearly impossible. No UFC Hall of Famer has ever gone undefeated. This includes the likes of Matt Hughes, Dan Severn, and Bas Rutten.
So what’s the problem? Well Khabib Nurmagomedov is a notorious hard trainer and it has led to him pulling out of fights due to injury. More specifically, Nurmagomedov hurt his knee and that put him on the shelf for almost 2 years. Although Nurmagomedov has stated this injury is a thing of the past, this makes him unreliable from a business perspective. Even McGregor has stated that Nurmagomedov does not deserve a title shot due to this issue. During UFC 205’s post-fight press conference, McGregor said this:
While there is merit to that argument, there will always be a group of fans who will say that the real champ of the lightweight division is Khabib Nurmagomedov and that will effect McGregor’s legacy.
The issue to the whole list of arguments that have been mentioned is this, McGregor is truly a great generational fighter. McGregor probably will beat Jose Aldo again and will probably go into a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov as the favourite, not the underdog. However, McGregor seems like a fighter who only wants to fight the ‘attraction fight’. For example, there is already talks about a third Diaz vs McGregor fight or a McGregor vs Wooley fight for the Welterweight championship. The scary thing about these talks is that these fights are likely to happen before a championship defense. Meanwhile not only has McGregor not even defended the featherweight once, he has had the championship for almost a year. To be honest, dominant champions fighting in other weight classes is not even unique to McGregor however he is doing it in a way that seems almost cheaper.
While it is rare, it is not unique. Anderson Silva regularly fought light heavyweights while middleweight champion, however, he always defended his middleweight championship. Randy Couture is considered a legend for being a two weight class fighter. The difference is that both kept defending their title in their respective weight classes
Fact is McGregor needs to fight these two fighters because at this present time both fighters are the second best in the divisions that Conor McGregor is the champion of. Failure to do so would mean that McGregor is ducking his obligations to do what a champ is supposed to do, defend his title. This leads to a bigger problem. If fighters do not defend their title then that will ruin MMA and that's why McGregor is ruining the sport.