The UFC 216 main event between lightweight Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee is for the Interim Title, with the winner logically expected to unify the title with current champion Conor McGregor. But logic often plays second fiddle to ‘money’ when it comes to certain angles in the UFC.
While Ferguson and Lee are some of the top dogs in the UFC’s stacked 155 lbs weight class, their matchup was put together due to McGregor’s extra-curricular projects outside of the promotion.
The title has been on hold since Conor won it back in November of 2016 so the UFC felt obligated to put together an interim title bout to crown a temporary / current champion in the division. While McGregor is the official champ, he is simply not defending his title. And I personally do not blame him. Kind of.
While I am somewhat of a traditionalist, I do believe champions must defend their titles. But that comes second to maximizing the potential revenue one can generate from their brand. If one is going to compete in combat sports, they must be financially strategic and quite bluntly: get paid as much money as possible.
The career of any professional athlete often takes place in their twenties and thirties. This is when they are in their prime, and when it comes to any combat sport, they take a ton of punishment throughout these years. While many of these alpha-males are fully aware of what they have signed up for, there may be some regret later on in life.
If one is going to sacrifice their health, then perhaps financial consideration should be on the forefront of their minds. If they are figuratively going to ‘go to war’, then pay them accordingly. For McGregor, it’s a UFC title defence for (arguably) $10M or a boxing superfight vs. Floyd Mayweather for $100M.
Sorry to all the MMA purists, but that decision is a simple one. In essence, take whatever you are doing for a living and think about what you would do if you were offered 10X the amount of money to do the same job, or in this case, perhaps a slightly easier one.
So while Ferguson and Lee will be competing for the UFC’s Interim Lightweight Title on Saturday night, the winner should be able to fight McGregor next, to unify the two belts. But when the big money fight for McGregor is a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz, both Ferguson and Lee have some work to do.
Add a potential McGregor bout vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia, and Tony and Kevin have another obstacle to overcome. Why? The UFC’s debut in Russia, with a global star like Khabib, puts Conor’s team on notice. There’s much more money to be made in this fight than any fight vs the winner of Ferguson and Lee.
Both of these gentlemen have to do a multitude of things to get that massive, potentially life changing bout with Conor. Not only do they have to win on Saturday night, the performance has to be one that is out of this world, to the point where everyone and their family, friends, cats and dogs are all clamouring for a unification bout.
That would be step one … step two, in my humble opinion, is the post-fight interview in the octagon. That will have the most eyeballs watching, listening and remembering what is said. The viewership and reach significantly declines during the post-show and post-fight press conference.
The destination of a McGregor Fight for Ferguson and Lee can be a reached with the proper road map. The wheel does not have to be reinvented. If they plan it out accordingly and are ready for each stage of the journey, they can accrue that ‘money fight’.
Can they do it? Will they do it? Rest assured come Saturday night, during Fightful’s post-fight show, Sean Ross Sapp and I will discuss whether or not the winner did enough to take on Conor McGregor next.