UFC 206’s interim featherweight title bout limped over the line late on Saturday night as Max Holloway defeated Anthony Pettis to claim the newly vacated belt.
Drama over the belt has never been far away in recent weeks. In stripping of Conor McGregor of the title he won exactly one year ago today, UFC president Dana White was able to free up the interim belt by promoting Jose Aldo back to undisputed champion.
Bumping Holloway v Pettis to an interim title contest, UFC 206 once again had a title fight for the headline event. Pettis did his best to scupper things by missing the 145lb weight, thus ruling himself out of contention for the belt, despite the contest remaining in place.
Luckily for White and UFC, Holloway recording his tenth straight victory and, in taking the vacant interim title, has now set up a tantalising contest with Aldo for sometime in 2017.
However, enormous Conor McGregor shaped questions continue to hang over the featherweight division, despite the reshuffle and changing of title owners. Arriving as the Cage Warriors featherweight and lightweight champion in 2013, McGregor always had designs on becoming a double weight champion in the UFC.
Rampaging through the 145lb division, he finally faced Aldo on December 12th 2015 in a highly anticipated clash that divided fans. To many, Aldo, as the supreme ruler of the division for almost a decade, was going to be simply too much for the Irishman.
Hindsight, however, tells us a different story. It took McGregor a mere 13 seconds to end Aldo’s reign, the shortest ever UFC title contest. For the day that is in it, here it is one more time, in all its seismic glory.
Video Credit: Fer bahl
Having since moved on to become the lightweight champion, following his recent defeat of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, and the announcement that he is to take almost a year off in order to focus on impending fatherhood, it was almost inevitable that UFC bosses would take the featherweight title from the Dubliner.
The division is now attempting to recover from McGregor’s path of destruction, with UFC 206 the first step to restorating some semblence of competition. The problem is that despite McGregor having not defended the featherweight title in 2016, he was and still is regarded as the king at 145lb.
In Jose Aldo, the division once again has an undisputed champion. Except this title is very much disputed. He was promoted into the title, having never defeated McGregor.
Even the interim title is tainted by the spectre of ‘The Notorious‘ one. While Holloway has certainly earned the right to wear the belt, like Aldo, he has also tasted defeat at the hands of McGregor, at UFC Fight Night 26 back in August of 2013.
The featherweight division now finds itself in the ironic position where both the ‘undisputed’ and interim champions have been bested by a man that while focused elsewhere in 2016, is more than capable of a return to 145lb, wherer he remains undefeated.
Next up will almost surely be an Aldo v Holloway clash, where the title will be unified one way or another. Regardless of the outcome however, the shadow cast by McGregor will remain for as long as he maintains an interest in a return to 145lb.
Here’s hoping he when he does return to the UFC, he does so as focused and formidable as ever, ready to lay waste to the pretenders to his throne.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena