When Conor McGregor viciously defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title at the UFC’s first New York event, it made history in many ways.
It was not only the first UFC event in the Empire State, but it was also the first MMA event in the Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden. In addition, McGregor, who was the UFC Featherweight champion, became the first two-division belt holder in the history on the promotion.
McGregor left no doubt that he is currently is the baddest man in the word of MMA. During the post-fight in-cage interview he ravenously craved his second strap, lambasting the UFC for not having it ready for him immediately. Once received, he hoisted it proudly for the sold-out arena crowd and the world to see.
It was a defining moment in the MMA, and the thought that now champions might receive multiple crowns within the promotion made the minds of the fans flutter about the possibilities of different matchups across the athletic talent pool.
Then Daniel Cormier got injured and the upcoming UFC 206 event in Toronto was sent into a shambles minus the main event rematch of the UFC light heavyweight champion versus top contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
So what did the UFC do?
They stripped McGregor of his old featherweight hardware, elevating interim champion Jose Aldo and named a new main event of Anthony Pettis versus Max Holloway as an interim featherweight bout with the winner getting a shot at Aldo next.
In my best British accent, I must cry “bollocks” to this ill-advised maneuver and say that the UFC is moving down a slippery slope with this move. Undoubtedly, McGregor is the biggest thing in the global MMA spectrum and to have him defending two belts at once sets up matches galore that a new salivating base that prays at the McGregor altar were waiting for.
In addition, his third moonlight at welterweight yielded the now 1-1 tie between the Irishman and Nate Diaz. The kid has literally owned the company’s pay-per-view excellence for the last few years, all the while creating intrigue through his apparent lack of weight-division fear.
Although Aldo was a true champion before McGregor ever stepped into the Octagon, he still should have had the chance to unify the belt properly and answer the question if his first round KO in their only pairing was legitimate. To totally erase that opportunity in the short-term, and possibly in the long-term if the winner of Pettis vs. Holloway eventually beats Aldo, is not only a travesty but fiscally irresponsible.
Boxing has for years confused laymen fans with its myriad of belts and sanctioning bodies. One thing the UFC has always had going for it was the fact that the attention is not as splintered as it is in boxing. The UFC is the clear leader of top tier MMA competition and even though Bellator is nipping at its heels, the popular opinion of a gold standard lies within the Octagon.
With McGregor’s combat brilliance he elevates a now popular sport to higher heights by challenging the traditional notion of a champion. He wants to fight everybody.
To scrap the new integrity he is building for the UFC brand with dominant performances across weight classes undermines the new normal, which is that a fighter must be weight class versatile and dominant simultaneously. The UFC missed its mark by eliminating that opportunity and by allowing only two weeks for McGregor to be a two-weight class champion, eradicated the idea that a fighter could literally clean out multiple divisions and wear multiple belts.
For the fans that is a travesty that perhaps shows the lack of understanding the new ownership has of the evolving business of MMA.
McGregor made news yesterday by being granted a boxing license in California, adding some excitement to the idea that he might be serious about fighting Floyd Mayweather in what would be a lucrative mega-fight and promotion of epic proportions. But Mayweather's camp wants everyone, for now, to keep things in perspective.
"He got a boxing license. Congratulations to him,” Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions told ESPN.com. “Conor McGregor can say anything he wants to, but he has a boss, and his name is (UFC president) Dana White. He is under contract to the UFC, and if he wanted to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match he can't because his bosses wouldn't allow that to happen."
Right now, the UFC holds all the power. Maybe they should think about utilizing it in a way that allows McGregor to fight whoever he wants, which would give the fans who pay their hard-earned money what they want as well.