Prior to getting put to sleep by Holly Holm, now-former bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was undeniably the UFC’s biggest superstar. That might still be the case today, but it’s far more credible to have a champ as the face of your company than a mere top contender.
With the UFC in dire need of stars long before Rousey was rendered unconscious on the canvas, particularly after Jon Jones’ hit-and-run debacle, the planet’s premier mixed martial arts promotion needs interim featherweight champ Conor McGregor (pictured) to beat featherweight champ Jose Aldo at UFC 194 now more than ever.
Rousey, Jones and McGregor, in that order, are the UFC’s biggest mainstream studs. The first two no longer possess gold and the last captured his manufactured belt without beating the Aldo, the most decorated featherweight in MMA history.
With the UFC’s unwavering support, and UFC president Dana White’s perceived favoritism, McGregor has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top despite competing for the organization just six times since getting signed in 2013.
After entering the octagon with nearly as much hype as Brock Lesnar, Mcgregor’s detractors have accused the UFC of handpicking the perfect opponents for the standup specialist. And when he actually won the interim title, sure it was against a former two-time top contender with a strong wrestling pedigree, but Chad Mendes accepted the fight on 11 days’ notice.
Mendes was winning the fight before completely gassing out in the second round.
So for pundits to question McGregor’s accomplishments is understandable, but the chatty Irishman’s drawing power is undeniable. All he needs is a signature, highlight reel victory to cement his status as the UFC’s next Ronda Rousey.
If McGregor can unify the featherweight crown on December 12 by handing Aldo his first defeat in 18 outings, a torrid run the blazing Brazilian ignited in 2005, then the UFC has the proper ammo to pump McGregor as their newest golden boy.
If McGregor loses to Aldo, then three of the UFC’s biggest stars will no longer have hardware to their name. While Jones is expected to get an immediate shot to reclaim the belt that was stripped from him following his latest legal woe, a rematch against champ Daniel Cormier isn’t expected to take place until summer of 2016. That means none of the UFC’s big three will possess gold for at least seven months. That’s a big problem.
Middleweight champion Chris Weidman probably comes in fourth behind Rousey, Jones and McGregor, but Weidman probably doesn’t even get recognized walking down the street in his own hometown.
If you thought White was privately pulling for McGregor to pummel Aldo before Rousey’s upset loss, then White’s wish will probably be plastered all over his face come UFC 194.