Jose Aldo deserves the chance to reclaim the featherweight title
Conor McGregor’s historic achievement at UFC 205 has elevated him to an even higher level in the sport, and becoming the first fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously brings new challenges for the Dubliner.
Considering he hasn’t defended his featherweight title since beating Jose Aldo in December 2015, McGregor has faced some criticism for holding the division up. Of course, a Diaz-sized speed-bump is the reason for this delay and McGregor’s willingness to face him on short notice saved the UFC 196 PPV card.
That loss and subsequent rematch held the featherweight division up further, although Aldo and Frankie Edgar fought for the interim belt while the champion avenged his defeat to Diaz.
The champion-versus-champion super-fight which headlined MMA's debut in New York was the right contest to make on a huge night for the UFC and appears to have broken almost every record in the UFC’s book.
"Options are good," as the man himself would say, and that’s exactly what lies before him. The trilogy fight with Diaz will always be on the table, and probably should be put off until the end of 2017. That fight will sell regardless of the position either fighter occupies at the time of signing the contract.
However, Khabib Nurmagmedov put in a devastating beat-down of Michael Johnson in the prelims, and the undefeated Russian made some reference to the populations of both Ireland and Russia before calling McGregor “a chicken” in an attempt to make sure his name was next in line. He must have sensed an Irish win in the main event.
Accomplished as he is, the unbeaten Nurmagomedov has only fought twice since April 2014; once against stand-in Darell Horcher earlier this year, and now against Johnson who had lost two of his last three going into UFC 205.
The other front runner for a lightweight title shot is Tony Ferguson who is currently riding a nine fight win streak, culminating with a win over former champion Rafael Dos Anjos at the beginning of November. Strangely, Ferguson’s only UFC loss was to Michael Johnson back in May 2012.
A lightweight title eliminator fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson would offer up a rightful contender to the McGregor lottery, in every sense of the word. Efforts to match the pair together have been scuppered by injury in the past, which adds another dimension to the bout.
Given he has a child on the way sometime after March 2017, and that he emerged relatively unscathed from the Alvarez fight, defending both his titles against Aldo makes the most sense.
All the fighters have to do is step on the scales twice at the weigh-ins and - assuming both make the featherweight limit of 145 lbs - both titles can be contested.
A fight against Aldo in early 2017 will allow the Dubliner to argue he is not holding up either division, and will give him some breathing space to take time off to start his family before returning, hopefully in the late summer.