After obliterating Jose Aldo at UFC 194 to unify the featherweight title, Conor McGregor (pictured) has the MMA world at his fingertips and options on his mind.
The UFC has laid out two choices for their biggest cash cow: defend his featherweight crown against Frankie Edgar, or vacate the belt he just won to immediately challenge for the lightweight buckle.
Both of those options are very appealing to McGregor, sans that whole “vacate” thing.
“I’ll tell you one thing that won’t be happening, if I go to that lightweight division, there’s no way in hell that I’m vacating my belt,” McGregor stated at the UFC 194 post-fight press conference. “That’s not happening. There’ll be a belt on one shoulder, and a belt on the other shoulder.”
With his record-setting talk matching his record-setting walk, McGregor is rewriting the game. The brash 27-year-old doesn’t just want to join the likes of Randy Couture and BJ Penn as the UFC’s only multi-divisional champions, he wants to be the first to hold two different titles at the same time.
The UFC has always been adamant that a champion must relinquish their title if they choose to chase another one. The UFC’s logic is obvious, they don’t want to create logjams in two divisions because the belt isn’t active. Lightweight is arguably the UFC’s deepest weight class, so that makes it even tougher for them to cater to “Notorious.”
Much like his defense inside the cage, McGregor has the perfect counter for that roadblock.
“I understand why previously they would have fighters [vacate their belt to go after a different one], because many fighters don’t fight as frequently as I do,” McGregor rebutted. “Tell me how many fights I’ve had in the past year. I’m busy. I stay active. When I go up to lightweight and I take that lightweight belt, I will still be the featherweight champion.”
Well, McGregor does have a point. He fought three times in 2015, with an average five-and-a-half month break between bouts.
Rafael dos Anjos captured the lightweight belt by dominating Anthony Pettis back in March and will make his first title defense next Saturday, so the 155-pound hardware has been sitting stale for nine months. Furthermore, after Pettis beat Benson Henderson in August 2013, he only put the gold on the line twice in 19 months.
Oh, and let’s not even get started about the featherweight crown. The reason the UFC manufactured the interim belt that McGregor gladly collected in the first place was because then-champ Jose Aldo was injured more often than not over the past several years. Specifically, Aldo had only defended his throne six times since January 2012.
The UFC prefers their champions to defend their titles twice each year. However, given what’s taken place in their featherweight and lightweight divisions, McGregor presents a solid defense.
After knocking out Aldo in merely 13 seconds to break a UFC title fight mark, setting a UFC record at the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a live gate of $10.1 million and UFC 194 hovering around one million pay-per-view buys, McGregor has solidified himself as the company’s biggest superstar.
Nobody in the game self-promotes like McGregor, and that’s one of the reasons he’s been able to achieve massive box office numbers in only seven UFC fights. Imagine the buzz McGregor could create with a belt on each shoulder.
It’s time for the UFC to make an exception to their rule, because McGregor is exceptional for them when he rules.