Conor McGregor has some tough choices to make following the withdrawal of Rafael dos Anjos from UFC 196 through injury.
In a case of déjà vu today, it has been announced that Brazilian Dos Anjos has pulled out of his UFC 196 lightweight title fight with featherweight champion Conor McGregor. With only eleven days to go before they were due to face off in the octagon, Dos Anjos’ camp has announced that their fighter has suffered a broken foot.
This announcement is uncomfortably similar to the withdrawal of José Aldo three weeks before UFC 186 when he was due to face McGregor for the featherweight strap. At the time McGregor was quick to publicly conclude that Aldo was running scared, and MMA fans wait to see how McGregor will react to the cancellation of another title fight.
Having made the commitment to jump up to lightweight, much has been made of McGregor’s change in physique. Social media has been awash with images of a ripped McGregor who appears more welterweight than the featherweight of two months ago.
With anticipation growing steadily over the winter and with fight night in sight, today’s announcement comes as a hammer blow to fans who have committed to making the long and expensive trip to Las Vegas. For McGregor also, the cancellation brings with it uncertainty over what might come next for the dynamic Irishman.
McGregor is now at a crossroads. Does he stay the course and take on another lightweight opponent, a mere title contender? With the likes of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Nate Diaz voicing the wishes to take on McGregor, he is certainly not short of options at lightweight.
However with Cerrone fighting only last weekend, winning impressively, surely the eleven day turnaround is too short for him. That leaves Diaz, a man that appears to have a genuine hatred for McGregor. While this would be an exciting fight to see, is it too much for McGregor to risk?
With a move to lightweight came an instant title shot. While some argue that he does not merit a chance so soon, it was a shot that was given. With that now off the table, should he really take the next best in the division? If he loses then a fight with Dos Anjos down the road will evaporate.
There is also the option to move back down and defend his featherweight title in a big money fight against the likes of Frankie Edgar, the one contender he did not face on his rise to the top. Or, he could take on Aldo in a rematch, a fight Aldo is demanding.
Dropping back to featherweight would require McGregor to drop serious muscle mass in order to make the weight. The risk to his body in doing that could be extreme. He has trained for lightweight, has geared his nutrition for lightweight. Changing it all and cutting down for featherweight could strip McGregor of his strength, leaving him tired and feeling weak. Surely he would not risk his beloved title feeling so compromised.
Hi final option is to sit tight and wait it out for Dos Anjos to recover. With a broken foot and with the Brazilian’s penchant for kicking, the wait could be as much as six months. Knowing McGregor, he will not be keen to sit on the sidelines waiting. He wants to fight and will likely look at options that put him back in the octagon far sooner.
None of the option open to him now are too appealing, through no fault of his own. Seemingly in the best shape of his career, preparing for his biggest fight, today’s announcement is cruel.
He is now forced to change his mindset completely and prepare for a whole new challenge, possibly for as soon as UFC 196. The UFC has invested heavily in the March 5th fight and they will surely seek to replace Dos Anjos with another fighter so that their prized asset can bring in the money, win or lose.
With the Dos Anjos news still fresh, the world waits for a statement from Conor McGregor.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena