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Conor McGregor as expected will get another crack at Nate Diaz in the UFC 200 main event on July 9 in Las Vegas. What was not necessarily expected was the rematch taking place at welterweight because McGregor is reportedly “obsessed” with getting his redemption in the very weight class in which he gassed out and was submitted by a guy who had 10 days to prepare for the fight.
On top of it all, UFC President Dana White has stated that, win or lose, McGregor will defend the featherweight championship in his next fight against the winner of the interim title bout between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. All of this sounds good in theory, but it has the makings of a potential disaster.
Why this rematch is taking place at 170 pounds is bizarre in itself. For one, Diaz has suggested that it be a lightweight fight so McGregor won’t have any excuses if he comes up short again. Neither fighter campaigns regularly at 170, so it’s interesting that the decided-upon weight class would be welterweight. More importantly, Diaz will enter this fight with a full training camp. We like to say that he had a 10-day camp for UFC 196. However, with all the media obligations leading up to the fight, it really was more like a four- to five-day camp.
We all know the story about how McGregor gassed himself out after a round of teeing off on Diaz. However, it isn’t so much about his conditioning as it is the fact that his power didn’t carry over into a much larger weight class. Diaz, who is known for a sturdy chin, absorbed everything McGregor had to offer and found the exhausted Irishman an easy target in the second round. Obviously, a more measured approach could have served McGregor well and could be the path to victory in the rematch. It’s just troubling to know that McGregor’s obsession has allowed him to take a fight in a weight class against a fighter who doesn’t even compete there.
If McGregor were to win, that’s great. However, the series would be split at one fight apiece. If McGregor were to lose? Oh, boy.
The idea that McGregor will be forced to defend his 145-pound title after competing at 170 pounds is really wishful thinking. That’s not to say McGregor can’t get back down to featherweight, but it’s certainly going to be a challenge after two fights at welterweight. However, in the event that McGregor ended up on a two-fight losing streak, the idea of his defending a title sounds almost preposterous. Sure, he’s still the champion, but the luster would be knocked off the title fight just a bit. The real question is whether or not McGregor can physically get himself back down to 145 pounds. Would he even want to? SBG Ireland trainer John Kavanagh has stated under no uncertain terms that the Irishman struggles to get himself down to fighting weight. Although he may be able to pull it off, the difficulty of putting his body through that stress after having a pair of fights in a weight class 25 pounds higher makes you wonder if it will be worth it.
What’s quite interesting about this matchup is that it does little more than fatten the bank accounts of the individuals participating. A win for Diaz does not necessarily move him up the lightweight ladder, and it certainly shouldn’t put him in contention for the welterweight title. Meanwhile, McGregor beating Diaz shouldn’t earn him anything close to a title fight with welterweight boss Robbie Lawler or even a crack at lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. That’s not to say that the Ultimate Fighting Championship wouldn’t have the winner leapfrog other contenders, but he certainly wouldn’t “deserve” it.
It’s hard to figure out where the UFC is going with McGregor. Back-to-back losses would certainly be damaging to his stature and could bring the organization’s cash cow back down to earth. Unlike boxing, we have to commend the UFC for the desire to keep its fighters busy with highly ranked opponents rather than putting them in with a few softballs. With that said, it’s still quite dangerous to trot out your prized horse against elite competition after a big loss.
Whatever the rationale, we’re going to get a big rematch at UFC 200 between McGregor and Diaz with nothing on the line except pride.
Andreas Hale is the editorial content director of 2DopeBoyz.com, co-host of the boxing, MMA and pro wrestling podcast “The Corner” and a regular columnist for Sherdog.com. You can follow on Twitter for his random yet educated thoughts on combat sports, music, film and popular culture.