Brian Barry has already written a piece on Conor McGregor’s potential path should he emerge victorious from his March 5th welterweight bout with Nate Diaz, but in what direction will “The Notorious” go should he fall to the Stockton savage at UFC 196?
When it was first announced that the featherweight champion would be making a 10lb jump in weight to challenge for a second gold belt, a forecast of this nature would have been a little less hazy. At that time the most prevalent suggestion was that McGregor would drop back down to 145lbs and defend his title against Frankie Edgar, or perhaps Jose Aldo, were his lightweight excursion to end in failure.
It was a theory that made a lot of sense.
A loss at 155lbs might damage his aura to some extent, but he would still be unbeaten as a featherweight in the UFC and both those fights would remain marketable options.
However, while this is still a possibility, it is one that looks less and less likely with every glimpse of McGregor that we get.
The Straight Blast Gym product appears to have gained a significant amount of muscle mass over the course of this camp – transforming a brutal weight-cut into a borderline suicidal one.
Aside from the fact that his body may have outgrown it’s former home, McGregor’s mind doesn’t seem to be with featherweight business anymore. Even the ambitious climb to lightweight didn’t hold the ever dramatic Dubliner’s full attention for long.
Without giving people ample time to digest the announcement of the Dos Anjos fight, “The Notorious” one began talking about a move to welterweight.
“I like the sound of that 170-pound title as well,” said McGregor at the first UFC 196 press conference. “I feel I can take down them three gold belts, and I feel like I can do it by the year’s end”
With cojones the size of his, it’s a wonder that Conor doesn’t have to cut weight to make the 265lb heavyweight limit.
Rather than slow McGregor’s charge toward Robbie Lawler’s welterweight belt, Dos Anjos’ withdrawal seems only to have increased it’s velocity. He made the decision to fight the Brazilian’s replacement at 170lbs, and at Wednesday’s open workouts McGregor sounded more interested in a UFC 200 bout with the “Ruthless” Florida resident than a rescheduled encounter with RDA.
“It’s probably the leading option. Dos Anjos is an absolute bum, I swear to God… and he’s still complaining! He and his team are talking all this shit, man up and fight!”
Of course if he loses to Diaz, a fight with Lawler would be dead in the water, for the time being at least.
Some have suggested that a defeat to the belligerent Californian wouldn’t deflect McGregor’s shot at Dos Anjos, however. After all, that title fight had already been made and a loss at welterweight wouldn’t necessarily detract from the Irishman’s lightweight appeal.
But while it would take place at 170lbs, the defeat would be to a fighter ranked at lightweight rather than a legitimate welterweight. Allowing McGregor to jump the queue for a title fight in a division that he had yet to compete in drew enough criticism from jilted contenders to begin with, and the addition of a blemish to his promotional record would make it very hard for the UFC to justify staging that contest.
So with those two options likely off the table and a return to featherweight veering closer to the impossible with each passing meal, there would only be one really attractive bout left for Ireland’s favourite MMA son.
A rematch with Diaz, this time at 155lbs, would be a monster fight.
It may lack the prestige and historical significance of a title affair, but McGregor vs Diaz 2 would have so many extra layers. Armed with a victory over his tormentor, Diaz would have a much firmer footing in the psychological battle and it would be interesting to see McGregor’s response to his first setback under the UFC banner.
With a severely abbreviated promotion behind them the feuding pair have already whipped up a storm of interest, so imagine what they could do with a lengthier, more focused build-up that revolves around an intriguing new narrative.
A loss to Diaz would certainly give the featherweight champion’s detractors all the ammunition they are looking for and his reputation as a fighter would take a damaging blow, but with an attractive sequel on the table it seems likely that his superstar status would remain very much intact.