The featherweight champion has been ordered to defend his belt against Jose Aldo, but he himself has remained coy over his future
There was no hiding Dana White’s annoyance with Conor McGregor’s late showing at Wednesday’s press conference.
Before the arrival of 'The Notorious', the UFC president didn't hesitate when he was asked what his plans for McGregor were following the Diaz bout. The Bostonian maintained that the Irish superstar would have to return to the featherweight division regardless of the outcome of the UFC 202 main event and if he didn't, he would have to vacate the title.
That Wednesday, I had numerous conversations with other media members concerning the lack of excitement that existed ahead of the rematch. Without a title on the line, two men fighting in an unfamiliar division just wasn’t ringing the bells of the masses. It was all about entertainment with the rubber match, but no one was really that entertained.
Approximately 15 minutes after White declared McGregor’s featherweight ultimatum, 'The Notorious', the main event duo had us eating out of their hands.
Of course, public missile battles between two rival MMA teams is not the look the sport is going for, but it ignited a fire under the main event.
McGregor was forced to endure arguably the toughest five rounds of his career at UFC 202 against Nate Diaz. Image: Isaac Brekken / AP/Press Association Images
McGregor's comeback from adversity late in the third round of the UFC 202 main event to claim a decision win has endeared him to the MMA universe. When he arrived at Wednesday’s press conference, the featherweight champion appeared to be open to the idea of moving back down to his old stomping ground.
However, with winning momentum restored, he did a complete U-turn on the topic of taking a rematch against interim champion Jose Aldo.
"How long was I going back and forth with Jose?" he asked when his old opponent was brought up.
"That was a two-year build up. He pulled out last minute and I continued to fight someone else. Then we rescheduled. A two year build up, around the world for that boy, and then I stepped in to beat him in thirteen seconds.
"I mean, it’s hard for me to get excited about that, especially after his last performance. He didn’t go out and get it like I wanted him to.
"I don’t know. We’ll see. I’m the 145 lbs champion. The interim champion is a man that I KO’d in 13 seconds. I’ve got to figure out what’s next, but right now, I don’t know what’s next.
"There are many things in the pipeline. So, sit tight."
He scoffed at the idea of him vacating the featherweight title too. And to be fair to the Crumlin man, he made a very good point.
"How can they do that?" he begged when the topic of vacating the title was floated.
"If they want to do that, are they really gonna give my belt to the guy that I KO’d in 13 seconds and bury that division on the prelims? That’s what would happen.
"We'll see. How can they do that? What would that do to the division if the guy that I KO’d in 13 seconds is the champion? We’ve got a lot to talk about, but I’m in beautiful, beautiful position now and that was built on hard work, and I’m going to capitalize on that."
In perhaps the most obvious indication that tumultuous times are ahead for McGregor and White were his parting remarks at the press-conference.
"We’ll see. I have other stuff in the pipeline. Shit is about to hit the fan, I feel. So, we’ll see."
With his winning momentum restored, McGregor clearly sees his "beautiful position" as one where he is holding the keys to his future rather than UFC. Meanwhile, White continued to underline his stance that McGregor would have to defend or vacate the title.
McGregor remained coy over his future with the promotion. Image: Isaac Brekken / AP/Press Association Images
In a small media scrum backstage after his hard fought win, McGregor was adamant that he needed to discuss his next move. As far as the options that are available to him, he insisted, "some (options) might not be in this sport".
"The belt situation is lingering," he admitted after the win.
"I’ve got to talk. I’ve upset Lorenzo (Fertitta) and Dana White there, I know it. That was (Lorenzo’s) last day a few days ago. I was expecting Lorenzo and the family to come down (for the fight). I’m speaking to new people now, so I’ve got to talk about what’s next.
"There are a lot of options and some might not be in this sport."
While there are countless reports have undoubtedly already surfaced claiming that McGregor’s "options" pertain to the never-going-to-happen boxing fight against Floyd Mayweather, it seems a lot more likely that he could appear in a crossover over capacity for WWE.
Maybe it was just me, but McGregor’s online spat seemed to cause too much of a stir with the WWE superstars in the weeks leading up to the UFC 202.
"They’re messed up p*****s, if you ask me. Fair play to Brock (Lesnar), he got in and fought, but at the end of the day he was juiced up to the f****** eye balls, so how can I respect that?"
Just like the worked wrestling matches we see on WWE, half of the professional wrestling rosters blasted back. Despite knowing that McGregor was probably looking to drum up some promotion, they still took the bait.
Of course, McGregor only had good things to say about the owner of WWE, Vince McMahon.
"I mean, there are some dons in that wrestling game. The McMahon’s? They’re dons. Triple H is a don, The Rock is a don, but the rest of them are f****** p******."
UFC clearly want McGregor to defend his featherweight title, anything else at this point would be perceived as though the Irishman is pulling the strings behind the scenes with regard to his career.
Based on White’s icy dismissal of anything else but a unification bout for McGregor next, we can look forward to some of the public back and forth we enjoyed from the duo back in April, which eventually led to McGregor’s retirement and subsequent removal from UFC 200.