Ahead of UFC 212 this weekend where Jose Aldo squares off against Max Holloway in a featherweight title unification bout, one constant question lingers over the division. Will the shadow of Conor McGregor over the 145 lbs division forever haunt it’s inhabitants?
Since McGregor was forced to vacate his featherweight belt after being crowned champion of the lightweight division with a dominating victory over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 last November, Aldo was re-instated as the 145 lbs champion. Holloway claimed the interim featherweight title with a win over Anthony Pettis at UFC 206, which meant all roads lead to this weekend in Rio de Janeiro where we will see who truly is the best featherweight in the world. Besides Conor McGregor.
‘The Notorious’ made his UFC debut in April 2013, defeating Marcus Brimmage with a devastating first round KO and went on to set the 145 lbs division alight in an unprecedentedly short space of time, especially considering an ACL injury forced him out of fighting for almost a full year in that time period. He racked up wins against Holloway, Diego Brandao, Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver as he blazed a fiery path through the division.
Conor was rewarded for his endeavours with a title shot in July 2015, scheduled for UFC 189, but the champion, Aldo, withdrew from the bout two weeks prior to the event citing a rib injury. Having travelled the world on a media tour promoting the fight, there was a sense of anti-climax when the news of the cancellation broke. However, up stepped Chad Mendes on short notice to fight for what was now an interim 145 lbs strap on the line.
That fight proved to be McGregor’s toughest to date with the American wrestler gaining the upper-hand early on. Mendes won the first round and was on top in the second with take-downs and some heavy ground and pound. With seconds remaining in the second, and both fighters back on their feet, the Irishman spotted fatigue in his opponent. He capitalised with a monster straight left to the chin and finished his floored, defenceless rival off with a flurry of punches.
There were jubilant scenes in the MGM Grand Garden Arena as Dana White tied the gold around McGregor’s waist and the new interim champ raised the Irish tri-colour while screaming for joy.
Attention swiftly switched to what was next for the SBG man. The Dubliner was set to finally get his hands on Aldo at UFC 194. On December 11th 2015, the Brazilian showed up to unify his featherweight championship against the Irish interim champ, having not been beaten in a decade of MMA. What transpired was the shortest title fight in UFC history, McGregor sparking Aldo out in 13 seconds to become the unified 145 lbs champion of the world.
The 28-year-old went on to flee the division to pursue more history elsewhere. He clinched the 155 lbs crown to become the first UFC fighter to hold two championships from different weight-classes simultaneously off the back of two epic scraps with Nate Diaz at welterweight. Now, with a deal for the potential cross-over sport super fight with Floyd Mayweather edging ever closer to completion, the UFC’s featherweight division is in turmoil.
On Saturday night there can be an end put to this turmoil when we will see who the rightful champion of the division is for the first time since McGregor’s wake of destruction was caused by him coming in, taking over and hightailing.
Check out the current UFC lightweight champ’s historic run from his debut in the promotion to being crowned the undisputed king of the 145 lbs division ahead of UFC 212 this weekend, when finally the weight-class will regain a sense of normality without Conor McGregor’s shadow haunting it’s inhabitants any longer.