UFC 202 has come and gone but the event continues to churn out a variety of story lines, many of which have the MMA populous searching for answers.
With Conor McGregor officially evening the score with Nate Diaz, the Irishman’s next fight is apparently up in the air. But is it really?
The UFC featherweight champion has been threatened (err, informed ) by the promotion, that if he does not defend the title in his next bout, he will be stripped of the belt. He will now have to decide what’s more important: being a champion and getting paid, or being a prizefighter and getting paid a lot more
It would appear to me that McGregor fancies himself the sport’s biggest prizefighter, the highest paid independent contractor on the UFC’s roster and arguably (or perhaps not) … the sport’s biggest draw.
Like all fighters, he has the ability to write his own story. He can shape his legacy however he sees fit. He can also determine how many zeros he chooses to have following a number on a pay check many of us may never be able to attain.
How often have we heard him say that he wants to make as much money as he can, as quickly as he can, then get the “<expletive> out”? Dozens of times in dozens of interviews. So if that’s his motto, one has to assume he will follow the path to the biggest pay day.
Fighting Jose Aldo Jr. again will be another handsome deposit into his bank account. Millions of viewers will likely watch that bout because it will answer the many questions they had after the first one concluded. You know … the whole “was it a lucky punch” to “can he do it again” to “it will be quicker next time”, etc, etc.
That storyline alone will have all of us watching the two best 145 pounders in the game today settle a beef that may never go away. And in the end, it will be Conor cashing in.
But he won’t be cashing out as much as he would in fighting Nate Diaz for a third time … this time, at lightweight.
You see, history has proven that these two are lightning in a bottle. They were meant for each other. They both can sell a pay per view like very few can. Conor, with skill and pizzaz. Diaz … by just being real.
Their bout this past Saturday night ended in what many fans labeled as not just controversial, but with the wrong winner. I don’t buy the whole “robbery” argument, but I can definitely sit down and listen to the debate that Diaz won the fight, and not Conor.
But none of these debates truly matter - what matters is that these two are tied 1-1. It’s as if we need a definitive winner, an official entry in the MMA spreadsheet of legendary trilogies.
Heck, even Diaz, vape pen and all, stated he isn’t coming back unless he fights McGregor again. Hopefully it won’t be because of silly USADA suspension for vaping at the post-fight presser, but I digress.
Often times, if not most of the time, I try and put myself in the shoes of the person who is about to make their next move. Their next decision. What would I do if I was them?
Well, if I’m Conor McGregor, I chase the pay check. I chase the money. I want to get paid as much money as I can for putting my life at risk every single time I step into the octagon. My window of opportunity has a professional mixed martial artist is a tiny one. I have approximately a decade to maximize my earning potential, and if given the choice between a nice payday and a bigger one, I’ll take the bigger one, hands down.
And just imagine for one moment, if he does decide to take the Diaz fight and he actually does get stripped of the featherweight strap. Would Aldo not be crowned the undisputed champ? Conor would have a field day on the microphone with that one, because should he still come out relatively unscathed from a third bout with Diaz, he could likely zero back in on Aldo.
Or the lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez.
You see … for the few that can attain that luxury, being a prizefighter can sometimes be a completely different mindset, than being a champion. It’s a different world for these athletes. They operate on a different frequency than their peers and have earned the right to make decisions based on their “partnership” with the promotion.
And don’t forget - the UFC is a business. Business’ are about the bottom line. There is more money to be made in a McGregor / Diaz trilogy bout than a McGregor / Aldo rematch.
Oh … and GSP is coming back as well. Stay tuned.