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Why special treatment towards Conor McGregor can be harmful for UFC in long run

other sports Updated: Sep 28, 2016 19:16 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez face-off as UFC president Dana White breaks them up.(AFP Photo)

“Win, lose or draw for Conor, he’s the 145 pound champion so he’s going to go back and defend his title — win, lose or draw.”

That was the clear statement from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) owner Dana White when he was asked about Conor McGregor’s next fight after UFC 202, when the ‘Notorious One’ faced Nate Diaz in a rematch to their UFC 196 fight. However, that did not turn out to be the case.

The UFC management announced on Wednesday that McGregor will attempt to become the first fighter to hold two UFC belts simultaneously when he takes on lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden during the UFC 205 on November 12. The Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fans around the world would be looking forward to the fight, but it is hard to look past the UFC’s special treatment towards the Irishman.

Conor McGregor (blue gloves) reacts to fight with Nate Diaz (red gloves) during UFC 202. (USA Today Sports)

McGregor won the UFC featherweight belt on December 12 last year when he defeated Brazilian fighter Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. However, after that night, he has not defended his title against any other opponent and went straight for the lightweight belt.

The then lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos, had to pull out of the fight with an injury and as a result, McGregor’s next two fights were against Nate Diaz in the 170 kg weight category as part of a heated rivalry.

Meanwhile, Jose Aldo successfully defeated Frankie Edgar in UFC 200 to retain the interim UFC featherweight title and it seemed that the McGregor-Aldo title rematch was just around the corner. But, McGregor was allowed to hold onto his belt without fighting and the UFC 205 announcement means that he will be holding onto his belt for the remainder of the year.

Conor McGregor of Ireland punches Jose Aldo of Brazil in their UFC featherweight championship bout during the UFC 194 event. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

This is not the first time that an UFC champion has not defended his title for such a long period. Cain Velasquez did not defend his heavyweight belt for 385 days, Matt Serra did not put his title on the line for 378 days after beating Georges St-Pierre and McGregor’s opponent Rafael Dos Anjos has been the champ for 450 days with just a single defense. But, UFC’s decision to let McGregor fight for the lightweight title while holding his belt will seriously dent the reputation of the featherweight title.

The featherweight division has not been idle in McGregor’s absence – Aldo defeated Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, while youngster Max Holloway has won nine straight since losing to McGregor in 2013.

Both of them have a strong case to make when it comes to the title scene, but with McGregor competing in other weight classes, it seems that they have to wait for quite some time before that illusive fight. As a result, it did not come as a huge surprise when reports surfaced that interim featherweight champion Aldo has now asked for his release from the UFC.

Jose Aldo of Brazil (center) reacts to his victory over Frankie Edgar in their UFC interim featherweight championship. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

According to Brazilian website Combate, Aldo was extremely upset after the UFC tried to offer him a fight in UFC 205 against either Max Holloway or Anthony Pettis while also refusing to strip McGregor of the title as previously promised.

“We waited until Dana (White) publicly said that he wanted this fight with McGregor to happen. And then we expected it to happen. I’d get my rematch to unify the featherweight belts, or I’d have my belt back and fight Holloway or Pettis, since Dana said all the time that Conor couldn’t keep both belts,” Aldo said.

“But, to my surprise, I heard last night about the fight between McGregor and Eddie Alvarez, which was also denied by Dana last week. And to make it worse, he would keep the featherweight belt, and possibly having two belts at the same time.” he added.

This can be a huge blow to UFC as Jose Aldo has been a consistent performer in the featherweight division and he is easily one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the MMA promotion. The Brazilian held the UFC featherweight title for 1,848 days and defended it successfully seven times. It will be a huge loss for the UFC if it loses such a talented fighter who has been responsible for some of the best featherweight division bouts in the recent years.