Mixed martial arts fans rounded on Conor McGregor following a seemingly tongue-in-cheek tweet from John Kavanagh following UFC Fight Night 105 on Sunday night.
Watching from Iceland, the famous coach and patriarch of Dublin’s Straight Blast Gym, Kavanagh decided to throw a jovial dig at the UFC and the interim title concept that appears to have taken hold in recent times.
Congratulations to UFCs newest interim champ, its been almost a week since we had one ?
— Coach Kavanagh (@John_Kavanagh) February 20, 2017
Having watched his most famous student win his first UFC silverware in the form of the interim featherweight title back at UFC 189 in July of 2015, Kavanagh is no stranger to the mechanisms of an interim title bout.
Giving fighters something more to fight for, fans something more to cheer, the interim belt keeps a division ticking over when the champion is unavailable through injury or, in McGregor’s case, on a weight-hopping adventure that ultimately led to the rule of another division.
The short-lived interim featherweight title was retired after UFC 194 when McGregor annihilated Jose Aldo and ascended to undisputed champion without even breaking a sweat.
Since his decimation of the featherweight ranks and his jump to lightweight, via welterweight, in 2016, the UFC have had to scramble in order to keep the 145lb division relevant.
Following his success over Eddie Alvarez in their lightweight title fight at UFC 205 in November, bosses quickly stripped the featherweight belt from the Irishman, re-awarded it back to Aldo and hastily scheduled another interim featherweight title bout between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis in order to keep UFC 206 alive last month.
After McGregor announced his hiatus to focus on his family this year, bosses once again stepped in and created another interim-title clash, this time at lightweight, between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. That contest will take place at UFC 209 next month, with the winner set to take on the absent champion.
With two interim titles being created around McGregor’s undisputed titles, a light hearted dig by Kavanagh could well be forgiven. However, some fans have thought otherwise.
— Rob (@BrownieParadise) February 20, 2017
— Tony (@TonyEKM) February 20, 2017
@John_Kavanagh your boy never defends his belts
— Yoshimi (@Any1nsghost) February 20, 2017
@John_Kavanagh well that's what happens when gready Irishmen don't defend their fookin belts.
— The PeePee President (@HughJessWiener) February 20, 2017
@John_Kavanagh If your pupil defended his 1st or even 2nd belt, this trend would haven't have begun.
— Robert Gee (@12obGee) February 20, 2017
— JT (@JTBKK) February 20, 2017
— Ian Morgan (@Ianymeanymorgan) February 20, 2017
While some fans are more than happy to jump on McGregor’s title defence record, others are, like Kavanagh, happy to see the funny side and not take things too seriously.
— Perfect Crimson (@TenzBlissett) February 20, 2017
— Stiofan McCrory (@StiofanMcCrory) February 20, 2017
Whichever side of the argument you fall on, at the end of the day a title defence certainly would go a long way to silencing McGregor’s critics.
However, with the Dubliner looking to redefine the boundaries of MMA and boxing, with the potential of a Floyd Mayweather super fight on the horizon, it looks like those wishing to criticise will continue to be supplied with ammunition for the foreseeable future.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena