Conor McGregor Should be Defending His Belt
Next weekend at UFC 209, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are going to fight for a newly made UFC interim title. Since UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor won’t be fighting anytime soon, the UFC opted to book this fight and make it for an interim belt. It’s annoying, but at least it means the fight will get five rounds. Meanwhile, McGregor is being bullish about a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr., which is equally ridiculous.
Now obviously, as the top active draw in MMA right now, McGregor does have a certain amount of options for his next fight. Considering that he’s already fought and drawn big money at three different weight classes, McGregor doesn’t even have to fulfill his title obligations for his next fight, even though he should. Realistically, he should’ve fought a Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson for his next fight instead of pushing for a dumb boxing matchup with Floyd Mayweather.
The good thing about Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson is that it’s one of the best lightweight fights and matchups, at least on paper, so far this decade. Nurmagomedov is undefeated, and Ferguson has gone on a 9-0 run at lightweight. These two were supposed to fight previously on two separate occasions before. So this fight is a long time coming. Other than McGregor, they are legitimately the two best fighters of their division right now. The other good thing is that it will get five rounds too. That’s the only reason I’m sort of OK with a stupid and pointless interim title being made for this fight, even though McGregor just won the belt last November. Fans are guaranteed to get a five-round fight this time. Nurmagomedov was basically demanding a title fight, so now he gets to fight for his moral title; however pointless it might be.
Just because McGregor is one of the biggest stars in the sport doesn’t remove his obligations as champion. Champions should defend their titles. It’s easy for Conor McGregor to say if UFC asked him to beat up a top contender at featherweight in order to keep that belt, he would’ve done it. But would he really? Especially, when he’s sitting out right now and doing a public negotiation for a dumb boxing match with Mayweather? Not to mention it seems highly unrealistic he could safely make 145 pounds again after fighting at welterweight twice and then lightweight. His last two weight cuts at 145 pounds looked gnarly, and he shouldn’t go through with it again.
The fight for McGregor right now are really at 155 pound, and that’s where he should be focused on. He’s already built a pretty strong legacy by becoming the first simultaneous two-division champion in the UFC. So now, he should be building on that foundation by defending his lightweight title against some of the toughest possible match-ups, which are the likes of Ferguson and Nurmagomedov. The Mayweather fight is fun to talk about, but it makes no sense. Mayweather is a career boxer. McGregor is an MMA fighter. He’s not a boxer. Sure, both of them are the top draws of their respective combat sports, but that doesn’t mean it’s a competitive match-up or a match that should happen. This fight getting pitched back and forth respectively in the press has become well beyond tiresome. It’s moving the goal posts away from what the conversation should be. McGregor is a champion of his weight class who is not fighting the people he should.
I’m sure plenty of people will talk about the Georges St-Pierre fight as well, which I also think is a little ridiculous right now. GSP is coming back after a three-and-a-half year layoff. So yeah, you could put him in a prospective fight with GSP. People say GSP has a body type where he could make lightweight, but that also sounds ridiculous that a career welterweight, who’s never fought at lightweight, fights at lightweight for his first fight in almost four years. If anything older fighters should probably be cutting less weight; not more. Another title fight at welterweight for McGregor also makes no sense since there are a lot of contenders at welterweight in a stacked division after the upcoming Woodley/Thompson rematch.
Now, in McGregor’s defense, the UFC is partly to blame for all of this. The UFC did help feed and create this beast to where McGregor is now in a public negotiation phase with Floyd Mayweather and is going back and forth about how long of a break he wants to take. The UFC did cater to McGregor and give him what he wanted a lot, even when it didn’t make sense. In return, the UFC gained a ton of fans from Ireland and had a bonafide global superstar in McGregor. But now, you have McGregor believing he is bigger than the company, and for fighters who have done so in the past; that’s not something the UFC cares for.
I’m not saying McGregor shouldn’t try to renegotiate with the UFC and not try to get paid or get what he wants, but the Mayweather fight is stupid. There are tons of great, competitive fights for McGregor at lightweight. He’s the champion, and he should defend his title.
Jeffrey Harris is 411mania’s resident Jack of All Trades and has covered MMA for the site since 2008. You can shoot him an e-mail at [email protected] or hit him up on Facebook. He also co-hosts the 411 Ground & Pound Radio podcast along with Robert Winfree. You can listen to the latest episode of the podcast in the player below.