The lightweight division of the UFC is by far the toughest weight class in the organization. It houses some of the best fighters in the world, many of whom have so much championship potential that they even make some of the champions from other divisions look bad.
Well, now that lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, is done proving to everyone that he can hold his own against Floyd Mayweather Jr. (to the shock of many), he needs to focus on the shark-infested waters of his division. They’re all around him and looking for blood. It doesn’t really help McGregor’s case being the shameless trash-talker that he is, but that’s where he gets his motivation and self-belief to be such a great fighter. Whether he’s a good champion, however, is yet to be seen, because to truly earn a belt, a fighter needs to defend it at least once.
McGregor has proved doubters wrong time and time again, even against Mayweather, but there are so many incredible match-ups that can be set up for him at 155 pounds. It’s a promoter’s goldmine as to whom McGregor can face and how many possibilities exist if an opponent can beat him. It’s also going to set up a great situation for a lot trash talk, because that’s what McGregor does, which drags it out of his opponent, too. The Irishman has an uncanny ability to get under everyone’s skin, and seeing as how doing so forces a fighter to be emotional, someone like McGregor, who thrives in the spotlight, can easily exploit that in the most calculating way.
The Irishman’s masterful treatment of José Aldo was, by far, the most epic example of a fighter talking the talk and walking the walk. Not only did McGregor say he would beat Aldo, the first-ever featherweight champion in UFC history, but he said he would do it in first round. Well, it took him 13 whole seconds to do it, and it shocked the world. It wasn’t the luck of the Irish, either.
While McGregor hasn’t really managed to do a similar kind of public humiliation to an opponent since, he did become champion of multiple weight classes at the same time and did so using the same strategy against Eddie Alvarez. Even though he didn’t beat Alvarez as quickly as Aldo, he still made it look easy, and it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down, either.
In fact, McGregor is already starting to make demands on who he wants to fight and what his opponent has to do to face him. Not only does he want to face his old nemesis, Nate Diaz, but he’s demanding that if Diaz wants the fight against him, he has to go down to 155 pounds so they can fight for the belt. McGregor is pretty justified in his demands, seeing as how the first two fights with Diaz were both at 170, which is a division McGregor never fought at, while Diaz has fought there many times.
This one would be for the title, though, and McGregor is the champion, so it would make sense to meet at that weight. However, that’s not the issue with this situation. The problem is that the champ, who just came off of his fight with Mayweather that bottled up the lightweight division for more than nine months, is now trying to settle old scores by picking fights he wants. That doesn’t sit well.
McGregor might be the most popular fighter on the UFC roster and a world-renowned MMA star who makes stacks of money, but he’s not the boss. He doesn’t get to make fights because he wants to. You fight who you’re told to fight, and you give the fans what they want, while also giving the top fighters the fights they deserve. Do fans want to see a trilogy fight between McGregor and Diaz? Sure. It would be just as intriguing as the first two, but there are so many better choices of fighters out there, many of whom can give him a legitimate challenge. That’s not to say Diaz wouldn’t, but we can wait on him for the time being.
Furthermore, who knows if Diaz wants to go down to 155 or if UFC brass even thinks he deserves a title shot? Since his last fight was against McGregor, which he lost, he might not.
So the question is: who should be next for McGregor? Well, first, we need to lay the groundwork.
Since the champion hasn’t competed for more than nine months, the UFC decided there will be a fight to determine an interim champion, one who will unify the belt with McGregor at a later date. That bout will pit Tony Ferguson against Kevin Lee in the main event at UFC 216.
Obviously, that means the winner of that bout will take on McGregor. Of course, the lightweight division is so good that great fighters are waiting in the wings in the meantime. Aside from Ferguson and Lee, there are Khabib Nurmagomedov, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Justin Gaethje and many more. This is a stacked division full of killers.
It all comes down to McGregor stepping up to the plate and defending his belt. As much as he’s won titles, he’s never defended a single one of them, yet. He relinquished one to go to a more desirable division, but then he decided he wanted to make nine figures while boxing.
The time for making fighters and fans wait is over. Let this interim-title fight play out, but no more boxing for McGregor. His Irish fans need to make sure to hold him accountable, too. Demand that he fights and defends what he feels is rightfully his. Until then, McGregor is just another fighter with a souvenir around his waist, showing off to the crowd. Once he gets in there and fights to keep it, then he can show it off legitimately.