There will be plenty at stake when Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez square off in the UFC Fight Night Boston co-main event -- just not an immediate lightweight title shot.
While money, ranking, legacy and any number of other tangible or intangible honors will be up for grabs at the TD Garden Arena on Jan. 17, Conor McGregor -- the reigning featherweight king -- appears to have already jumped the line in the 155-pound division. While there has yet to be an official announcement from the UFC, multiple outlets on Thursday night were able to confirm that McGregor will face reigning lightweight king Rafael dos Anjos in the UFC 197 headliner in Las Vegas on March 5.
That likely means that no matter how good either Pettis or Alvarez looks in victory, there will be an extended waiting period if the winner is expecting to get a crack at 155-pound gold. This would be especially true if McGregor is victorious, as the Dublin native has expressed a desire to retain and defend the featherweight strap, as well.
Still, neither lightweight contender sounds particularly bitter regarding McGregor’s move. Pettis, for one, has been in a similar situation: “Showtime” was slated to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title at UFC 163 before withdrawing due to a knee injury; at the time, Pettis wasn’t even the lightweight champion.
“I was gonna move down to 145 and fight Jose Aldo when I was No. 1 contender. I guess the champion moving up to fight a champion makes sense, as long as they do it for the rest of the division,” Pettis said during a Friday media call. “If any other champ decides to move up then you automatically get a title shot.”
Alvarez, meanwhile, believes McGregor’s rise to prominence -- as well as his arrival to the lightweight division -- has positive financial implications for everyone in the UFC.
“Anything or anybody who brings more money to the sport is a good thing. It’s hard for me to say anything bad about it. Regardless of whether people think he deserves this or he deserves that, the truth is when one fighter gets paid more, it’s good for all of them,” Alvarez said. “I’m happy that he brings marketability to the division. It’s not up to me or any other fighter to say what he deserves or what he doesn’t. Our bosses make that decision no matter how we perform out there. I’m happy to see money coming in.”
Pettis disputes the notion that lightweight needed a jolt, however. He contends that featherweight, after years of being dominated by Aldo, was the division in need of new blood. McGregor provided that with his 13-second knockout of the Brazilian at UFC 194.
“I thought the lightweight division has always been marketable. We’ve had some great champions, some great guys that came out of the division,” Pettis said. “It’s not just based on talking; it’s based on performance. The division has always been tough.
“The [featherweight] division was dominated by Jose Aldo the whole time, so you get a guy that jumps in there and takes out Aldo and moves up a weight class, of course everyone is gonna want to watch it. I welcome it. Hopefully he stays and we see how good he really is.”
Alvarez does have one issue with McGregor switching weight classes. Frankie Edgar, who is a training partner of the former Bellator champion, appeared to earn a 145-pound title shot with first-round knockout of Chad Mendes at “The Ultimate Fighter 22” finale. Now, “The Answer” is left in limbo as McGregor attempts to become a two-division titlist.
“Right now it seems like Conor is able to make his own decisions. Nobody on this conference call can do anything about it. I can either cry and whine about it or just deal with what’s in front of me right now,” Alvarez said. “I do think it’s convenient there’s one guy left, the elephant in the room, that’s Frankie Edgar, and [McGregor] decides that he wants to do something different besides stay in that weight class and fight the next guy who’s entitled to the shot. Good for him.”