So, there’s been tonnes of speculation on Mcgregor and how and why he’s been stripped of the UFC featherweight title. I thought I’d try and untangle the debacle.
In case you missed it, Daniel Cormier was supposed to defend his title against Anthony Johnson at UFC 206 on December 10th. Unfortunately, Cormier has been injured in training, meaning the fight is off. Thing is, all UFC pay per view cards have a title fight to give people a reason to buy them. Instead of the last minute scrambling required to put it on Fox, Fight Pass, or pull together a contender for Johnson, they have decided to make an interim title fight for the featherweight division. Anthony Pettis Vs Max Holloway. Why Interim you say. Well, Pettis Vs Holloway was undoubtedly a title elimination fight anyway, and it’s way too short notice to pull Jose Aldo in (who is big for the 145 division) for a title fight against either of them. It would also be unfair to either of them to choose one without them having to scrap it out, but Aldo already holds an interim belt, and you can’t have two interim belts.
McGregor has held the division hostage by fighting Nate Diaz at a heavier weight class twice and then for the lightweight belt. Those are three opportunities where McGregor could have defended the featherweight belt but chose instead the money and legacy options. Who can blame him? The problem being, that it stalls a whole division. In this time McGregor has also put on some beef, and the likely hood of him returning to featherweight before lightweight is becoming increasingly unlikely. He, in his mind, has cleared out the Featherweight division, and probably has a lot more to prove at lightweight, so would probably choose the latter for his next fight, or even fighting for the welterweight title. By stripping him of a title he was unlikely to defend anyway, we free up the featherweight division. The interim title is also a safety bet from the UFC as Jose Aldo has stated very publicly that he’d like to fight McGregor or retire. He didn’t get his shot against McGregor and as far as we know he’s still thinking of retiring. If that is the case, the UFC can automatically make whoever the interim title holder the unified champion, but they can also have a barnstormer of a fight if Aldo does come back to unify the featherweight title. Here’s the ace in the hole, if Aldo comes back and wins it may be in McGregor’s interest to come back and rematch Aldo.
Here’s the thing, whoever holds the title, as long as they hold the belt and Conor is still active, they will always have an Irish shadow cast over them, knowing, and probably waiting, that eventually the Irish boogeyman can come down and provide them with their biggest challenge yet.
Looks to me like a great business move, the UFC has managed to cover many different future scenarios by putting the interim belt on the line at 206 and taking the Featherweight belt from Conor for the time being. It’s not like it was doing anything anyway except sitting on his shelf at home looking all shiny.