Featherweight champ reluctant to vacate belt in quest for dual glory
Three years ago Conor McGregor was on the dole. Now after the biggest fight in UFC history the mixed martial artist from Dublin has hit superstardom.
But what next for the 27-year-old featherweight champion following his 13- second win over the Brazilian, who had previously been unbeaten over the past ten years?
It was the fastest knockout in a UFC title fight in the sport’s history. It brought in a record gate attendance in Vegas, a whopping $10.1 million (£92.1m).
A reported number of 10,000 Irish fans made the trip to the MGM Garden Arena for the trip, and now McGregor is looking to catapult the sport to the highs that Floyd Mayweather has for boxing.
McGregor has made no secret of his desire to go up a weight division as finds it a constant struggle to remain in the 145lb barrier for featherweight.
But it remains to be seen if he will be able to hold both titles if he goes on to claim the lightweight belt, as UFC President Dana White may look to make him vacate it, but McGregor has vowed that that is not an option.
His coach John Kavanagh has said he never wants to see The Notorious make the gruelling weightcut for featherweight again.
After the fight, saying he wants to go up and down to take on each contender to prove he is the pound-for pound champion, he said: “If I go up to that lightweight division, there’s no way in hell I’m vacating my belt,” he said.
“There’ll be a belt on both shoulders. The belts will still be active because I’m active.”
McGregor was reported to have gained 20 per cent of his bodyweight between Friday’s weigh-in at 145lb and Saturday night’s fight, with one ex-fighter estimating he walked into the arena at 179lb on fightnight.
Speaking before the fight he said: “I don’t like making this weight. I like fighting at lightweight. I fought at lightweight many times in my career.
“I’m fast at lightweight. I come in refreshed at lightweight. It’s a different camp. It’s a different buildup when I’m fighting at lightweight than it is fighting at featherweight. I’m definitely open to fighting at lightweight no doubt.”
He also focussed on his pre-fight preparation and how that could help keep him enjoying the sport if he wasn’t watching his weight so much.
“Would your spirit not be different if you go into a steakhouse with your team and they’re ordering like 64-ounce ribeyes, rare ribeyes, marbled and delicious.
“And it’s cooked on a stone, they bring it on a stone so it’s not even cooked and the stone is sizzling and you put butter on it and it sizzles and cooks it, and then I show up: ‘Can I have chicken and can I have some salmon and some spinach, please?’
“That’s what I’m talking about. I want to show up at these places two weeks out from the fight and be like, ‘Give me the 64- ounce ribeye, some sweet potato mash, and I’ll also have some dessert.’”
Dana White said after the fight that it would be hard not to give McGregor a fight back in his hometown, with Croke Park a rumour, but the Aviva stadium also attractive to the native Dubliner.
“If they offer me Croke Park or the football stadium, you’re damn right I’ll take it,” he said after the fight.
However, White is rumoured to be uneasy about the prospect of Croke Park due to issues with residents and the controversial cancellation of Garth Brooks’ concerts there in the summer of 2014. Last year, the organisation’s president Aogan Ó Fearghail said the UFC were welcome to at least approach the GAA: “Our stadium is here and available. I haven’t seen an application but every application that comes is always welcome.
“He’s a young athlete who clearly has a world following. Certainly we need to discuss with Conor when he wants to fight and when he wants the venue.” However, White will consider the loss of Pay-Per- View income in the States from the early show that would be required to please Croke Park residents mean the UFC could lose out on revenue, even if they sell out the show.
Opponent: Jose Aldo
Jose Aldo has called for a re-match as said that the 13 seconds were not really a fight. A re-match between the two could garner interest and another expensive fight night but there’s always the risk that the wider audience grows tired of the repetitive hype.
Despite the pre-fight trash talk, and McGregor’s prediction that he would get Aldo with a left hook, the Dubliner was gracious in victory stating: “Respect to a great champion in Jose Aldo. I wish him and his loyal team well on their journey back. Much respect.”
Opponent: Rafael Dos Anjos or Donald Cerrone
In order to make the claim for lightweight, McGregor will have to take on the winner of Saturday’s bout between Rafael Dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone. It is tipped that the UFC’s refusal to allow McGregor to hold both belts could simply be a publicity stunt to build up this fight.
Opponent: Frankie Edgar
The previous lightweight champion, an American 34-year-old, won the right to compete for the featherweight title by taking down Chad Mendes with a first-round knockout on Friday night.