The UFC interim-featherweight title bout between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar was destined to be haunted by the spectre of Conor McGregor from the moment it was made.
And so it transpired.
Inside that cage, in the intensity of the moment, McGregor was unlikely to consume the thoughts of the two former champions, but somewhere in the back of their minds, he sat. While there was a gold belt on the line at UFC 200, it was a mere prop in the grander scheme and there was something more tangible at stake. A potential date with ‘The Notorious’ Irishman was the real prize, for one reason or another – be it revenge, monetary reward, or the allure of the true championship.
In the minds of fans, McGregor sat even more prominently, an integral character in the stories of both men and of the division as a whole, despite his recent absence from it’s limits.
Moving past the figurative, McGregor also sat at cageside and he was an ominous presence, as these two fantastic photos attest.
— Sports on Earth (@SportsonEarth) July 10, 2016
— Derek (@DT______) July 10, 2016
Standing amidst the seated masses, it seemed like he was trying to subtly and constantly remind the two men in the cage who was the king. If he wasn’t already lodged at the back of their minds, it appeared as though he wanted to creep in there.
Unsurprisingly, his presence wasn’t ignored in the aftermath of the fight.
Aldo was a unanimous winner after five rounds. Though he was outworked in the first round and in spots thereafter, the Brazilian legend did more damage as the fight progressed, leaving Edgar a bloody mess. Immediately after he was declared the victor, Aldo pointed to his recent conqueror at cageside and began to shout. McGregor may not have understood the language, but the message was clear.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) July 10, 2016
It's time to unify! ?
— Jose Aldo Junior (@josealdojunior) July 10, 2016