It’s hard to fathom the fall of Jose Aldo at UFC 194.
While many believed that Conor McGregor’s world-class striking could cause problems for the Brazilian on the feet, few envisioned seeing Aldo’s head smash off the canvas just 13 seconds into the fight. Yet in the grandest of outcomes, the only featherweight champion in UFC history had his title ripped from his wavering grip.
As the dust settled, the biggest star in the sport today was not only vindicated, but forever etched into history. The fastest knockout in UFC championship history saw the most emphatic passing of a torch that we’ve ever seen.
Shaky minds may describe the account as a perfectly timed left hook that teeters the realm of luck, but those Aldo lovers would also have you believe that the former champion deserves an immediate rematch. Their efforts will most likely be shuffled under the rug, along with Aldo’s promise in a reboot with McGregor.
Despite the naysayers that seem to follow and critique every move that the Irishman makes, McGregor has now cashed every check his mouth has written. His quick-witted banter and confident demeanor have now taken a backseat to sheer skill and Floyd Mayweather-esque dominance.
But for a guy who is a win away over Frankie Edgar from literally cleaning out the division’s top fighters, what are we to expect out of a 27-year-old knockout aficionado who just laid the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world to rest?
While many enticing matchups can be made at 145 pounds, including Edgar, Max Holloway and even Ricardo Lamas, McGregor’s true potential lies at the lightweight level. With standout contenders like Rafael dos Anjos, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, and (although a terrible matchup for McGregor) Khabib Nurmagomedov, the 155 division is a playground of sorts for a thriving superstar like “The Notorious.”
In reality, this is a move that should be made for a guy who cuts nearly a lot of weight to make championship weight as a featherweight. McGregor’s head coach John Kavanaugh stated after UFC 194’s win over Aldo that he never wants his fighter to make 145 again. UFC president Dana White also confirmed that McGregor would get an immediate title shot if he decides to move up to lightweight. Based on bad blood between McGregor and Cerrone, this will likely be the case if “Cowboy” can defeat RDA at UFC on FOX 17 this Saturday.
However, McGregor doesn’t seem completely sold on leaving the featherweight crop behind, saying that he would not vacate the 145-pound strap if he decided to move up to lightweight at UFC 194’s post-fight press conference.
Actively juggling UFC belts in two separate, but equally dangerous, divisions is something only lived out in video games. Yet the unified featherweight king is ready to accomplish what he once did in Ireland’s Cage Warriors Fighting Championship just three years ago.
But can McGregor, despite his infamous appetite to work and promote on a weekly basis, actually hold two belts at the same time? Would he be able to successfully defend both straps once, or maybe even twice, a year?
It’s quite the feat.
But if any active UFC fighter could actually pull it off, it would be McGregor. His fights are relatively quick and concise, allowing him to make a healthy turnaround for follow-up title defenses. His love for money, marketing and carnage would supersede any possibility of a burn out, although he should take some time off now. And considering Edgar and Holloway are the only two left in the featherweight division who deserve a title shot in 2016, McGregor can focus a lot of his attention on the lightweight roster spanning the next two years.
It has yet to be determined if the UFC would actually allow McGregor to fight for a title in another weight class without vacating his current 145-pound throne. But as long as the Irishman is able to juggle three or four title defenses in total per year, why wouldn’t the UFC ride the unworldly momentum that their biggest ticket is currently creating?
At the end of the day, McGregor has done too much work in the featherweight division to simply step aside and wave goodbye. But with a depleted collection of contenders, the weight class isn’t the most promising place to call home for one of the best fighters in the world. He needs greener pastures and greater challenges to build his legacy.
And considering he is fresh off a historic one-punch finish over the best featherweight of all time, how could you possibly doubt McGregor moving forward? Would anyone gasp with astonishment if he moves up to lightweight, wins the title there, and starts fighting off contenders between two weight classes?
With this potential split-division dominance looming in the near future, 2016 may even be a bigger year for McGregor and the UFC.