Fresh off a mauling of fellow UFC featherweight Dennis Siver, does Irish sensation Conor McGregor really deserve a shot at longtime divisional kingpin Jose Aldo? Is a match-up between the gifted gabber and the silent assassin good for the division? UFC President Dana White thinks so. He has stated that a May bout in Las Vegas between McGregor and Aldo is in the works, but does McGregor deserve it?
Since bursting onto the UFC scene less than two years ago, McGregor has rocketed to the top of not only the UFC featherweight division, but the forefront of fandom as well. Slowed only by a 2013 ACL tear, McGregor has developed into not only one of the most feared opponents inside the Octagon, but also rivals Chael Sonnen for the title of king of the microphone. But do five straight UFC wins and a talent for trash talk make one deserving of UFC title shot?
Glance at the official UFC rankings and you might walk away with an answer that initially leans toward denying McGregor his chance at gold so soon into his UFC tenure. As of this writing, there are currently four men — Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson — ranked above the Irishman in the rankings. While McGregor will no doubt rise in the rankings after dismantling Siver, it appears to be a rather formidable list to leapfrog. However, one key fact stands out after a closer examination: all four of those men have previously fought and lost to Aldo.
Of the four men ranked above McGregor, only Edgar would appear to have a legitimate gripe for being passed over. Mendes has already suffered two losses to Aldo, so a third crack any time soon seems highly unlikely. And while Lamas currently rides a two-fight winning streak, those wins, over Hacran Dias and Dennis Bermudez, hardly qualify one for a title shot. Despite being the most vocal about his displeasure with McGregor challenging Aldo, Swanson appears to have the weakest argument of all. Coupled with losing to Edgar this past November, Swanson has also previously lost to every man ranked above him.
If two contenders boast relatively similar winning streaks, the trump card will always remain whether or not one has lost to the champion. Although Edgar is on a three-fight winning streak, including the impressive aforementioned victory over Swanson, and boasts a past championship pedigree, the loss to Aldo remains too much to overcome. McGregor has sliced through all of his UFC competition with relative ease, and the allure of a fresh challenge for the champ will generally win out with UFC matchmakers.
With the merit of the title shot established, is a match-up between the brash McGregor and Aldo a good thing for the UFC featherweight division? Aldo has been the type of dominant champion that is a double-edged sword for the UFC. Aldo has devoured virtually every man that has stepped foot in the cage with him, and he has only rarely looked mortal. Similar to fellow Brazilian and teammate Anderson Silva, Aldo is in dire need of his own Chael Sonnen.
McGregor has managed to capture the attention of both the fans and the champion. If you don’t think McGregor has Aldo’s attention, consider that Aldo is not in the habit of flying halfway across the globe to watch potential challengers. McGregor has Aldo’s attention both through his words on the mic and his actions when he jumped the cage fence immediately after the win over Siver to confront Aldo cageside. Few things excite the fans like a challenger who truly seems unafraid of the champion, or, for that matter, a champion that seems unfazed by a challenger’s antics, as Aldo appeared this past Sunday when he stood there and smiled at McGregor.
McGregor has claimed his title shot through his in-ring performance, and he has cemented his title of most talked-about UFC athlete in recent memory with his boastful Irish spirit on the mic. The only question that remains is, will it be enough to allow McGregor to dethrone Aldo?