UFC's decision to strip Conor McGregor of the featherweight title risks devaluing the division says Sport360's Alex Rea.
“The end of 2015 means the end of the featherweight division.” Conor McGregor may have got the timeline wrong, but his prediction last year the featherweight division would be dead without him in it, is fast becoming a reality.
The divisive Irish superstar was ousted from his 145lbs throne this week, forced to abdicate his title with interim champ Jose Aldo assuming his place. And the decision to do so is, as McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh pointed out, short-sighted by the UFC.
McGregor’s historic rein as a double UFC world champion, he added the lightweight title to his empire after a sensational second-round finish of Eddie Alvarez last month, is now over. The reason why is cause for objection, though.
Light-heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier was forced off his main event meeting with Anthony Johnson at UFC 206 in Toronto on December 10 after tearing his groin abductor. The pull out, one of 33 from 80 main or co-main events to be changed this year due to injury, led to a mad scramble from the promotion as they desperately sought to maintain the appeal of a pay-per-view card, which already was struggling to capture the imagination.
Their solution was to promote the co-main clash between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis into the headline slot with the added context of an interim featherweight belt on the line. That of course has come at the cost of McGregor’s title, which he won by knocking out the new champ in 13 seconds last December.
While there’s an argument to be made that this gets the division moving again having been halted by McGregor’s escapades at 170lbs (Nate Diaz twice) and then 155lbs (Alvarez), it also takes it out of the spotlight. It’s unlikely we’ll see McGregor fight at featherweight again given how tough the cut is and with his sights seemingly set at fighting up, against welterweight champ Tyron Woodley, rather than down.
The UFC is now left with a division headed by a paper champion with an unnecessary second belt floating around now, too. Neither Aldo, or Holloway/Pettis warrant a belt, and yet, here we have two.
From a fan’s perspective, McGregor will be acknowledged as the featherweight champion and from hereon in, the man who owns the belt will have an asterisk next to his name. The UFC also loses some of the shine from the promotional angle of having a two-weight champion.
In one reactionary move they have managed to harm four fighters; Aldo because he won’t be recognised as the legitimate champ, Holloway/Pettis because an interim belt is nothing more than a promotional gimmick and McGregor because they’ve ripped a belt away from one of their most active champions.
Looks like ‘Mystic Mac’ has struck again.