McGregor, Diaz and the Sanctity of Titles: What Happens Next?

Diaz vs McGregorIt’s very rare that anything lives up to the weight of expectation any more… movies, videogames… especially fights. In this social, digital age, our streams of consciousness are all interconnected for months and weeks of build up. We’ve discussed, debated and deconstructed every angle, from the feasible to the infeasible, the sublime to the ridiculous. Isn’t it nice then, when something delivers? Saturday night’s McGregor vs Diaz headliner made good on all promises for all parties. The fair weather fans got their blood-soaked slugfest, the purists their five-round, see-saw display of heart, determination and skill. The fighters earned a pair of mighty paydays and UFC enjoyed yet another blockbuster showcase. Perhaps most importantly for MMA’s pack leader, the nature of the result will keep the contest on the tips of our tongues for the foreseeable future. That’s always the goal, right? Especially in these rapid times, where fights are churned out ad nausium and big news becomes yesterday’s news in the blink of an eye. It’s tough to see how Saturday night’s outcome falls in any way short of perfect. Dana White has strongly inferred that McGregor’s next outing will take place 25lbs south with a defence of his dust-gathering featherweight title, but this is prizefighting, where cash is king. The sporting thing would be for ‘The Notorious’ to fulfill his duty as champion of the 145lb division, but sport matters less and less to the UFC (if it ever mattered at all) as the years go by and the money rolls in. Sport aside, the right thing to do is unquestionably to strike while the iron is hot on a McGregor/Diaz trilogy bout, featherweights be damned. There isn’t a 145lb fight in the world involving McGregor or anyone else that people care about more than the final chapter in this most epic of sagas. If McGregor were to go back to 145 and lose, the sheen of the super-fight is dulled. Surely he should rule his own roost unquestionably (as he did prior to the first Diaz tilt) before casting his gaze on marquee bouts elsewhere? And if he were to lose to Aldo, wouldn’t that warrant a trilogy in itself? Would people be interested in McGregor/Diaz 3 at all if the Irishman lost to his Brazilian nemesis twice? The call for McGregor to go back to featherweight is fueled by trendy, anti-UFC rhetoric as much as anything else. McGregor is the Golden Child, the chosen company man; he wants the rematch so naturally the ‘cool’ thing to do is scratch in the dirt for reasons why it shouldn’t happen. The argument, technically sound as it is, is that the featherweight title has been held up since December 2015. Diving a little deeper, the belt (the real one, at least) has only been contested three times in as many years; should McGregor pursue the Diaz trilogy, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for that statistic to swell to four in four…assuming that nobody gets hurt. But that’s what interim titles are for, surely? And don’t we have one of those already? Ask yourself this: Does another six months really matter? Will the featherweight title be devalued any more than it already is? Will the champion of that division (either Aldo, who just dominated a top contender or any man who beats him) be held in any less regard if they don’t dance with McGregor by the year’s end? The only sensible answer to all of the above is a clear, unequivocal ‘no.’ Diaz’ decisive win over McGregor earlier this year may have contributed to a reduction (however slight) in his buzz, but the brash Irishman is still MMA’s most generous meal ticket. Once again he holds all the cards and if he doesn’t want the Aldo rematch to happen straight away, then it won’t. Considered from a viewpoint grounded in reality rather that the ‘perfect world’ angle critics and commenters so often love to adopt, there really is no other option. The old lie is over; titles in the fight game are not an indicator of who is best, they’re a yardstick as to who is most valuable. McGregor is most valuable against Diaz at 155lbs. A win here opens up title fights at 145, 155 and even that mythical super fight with the allegedly reawakened Georges St Pierre. Risking a loss at featherweight puts all of those fights – and the dollar signs that assuredly accompany them – in jeopardy. What happens next? Whatever makes the most money. McGregor vs Diaz 3: Expect it. By Brad Wharton @MMABrad

Written by Brad Wharton

Leave a Reply

MMA Odds and Ends for Monday: UFC 202 highlights, Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr. off Bellator 160

UFC on FOX 21’s Jeremy Kennedy talks UFC debut, training at Toshido MMA & TV Shows