It’s funny how things unfold in MMA.
UFC 206 lost its headliner this week when Daniel Cormier pulled out of his light heavyweight title defense against Anthony Johnson, leaving a much-maligned event without a main event in a market that’s already badly laboring.
In response, the UFC has inexplicably made the former 206 co-main event of Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis for an interim featherweight title, according to Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting.
Even though nobody outside of diehard fans has ever heard of Max Holloway. And Anthony Pettis has one win in a little under two years. And they already had an interim featherweight champion.
Can you feel the excitement?
Didn’t think so.
Furthermore, it appears that interim featherweight champion is about to become the undisputed featherweight champion.
Even though he’ll be badly disputed, because the real champion knocked him out in seconds and never lost his strap. Jose Aldo basically took his ball and went home, was rewarded with a paper belt for it and is now going to get the real thing only a couple of months later by doing absolutely nothing.
Can you feel the excitement?
Definitely didn’t think so.
So here we are in this hodgepodge of bizarro titles, contenders without merit and the only guy who matters in the grand scheme of things losing his belt only two weeks after the biggest win of his life. If you’re tired of all the talk about Conor McGregor, now might be a good time to stop reading.
McGregor is, quite publicly, the only man to ever hold two titles in separate weight classes at the same time. At UFC 205, on the biggest stage in UFC history, he put on the greatest performance of his career and maybe one of the greatest the sport has ever seen given the magnitude of the event and the pristine disposal of Eddie Alvarez he engineered.
His reward is that the UFC is looking to snatch his 145-pound title before he’s even had time to enjoy his accomplishment, pathetically angling to save an event no one cared about in the first place by creating an interim championship no one asked for. In order to do that, they have to strip McGregor—which has been on the table for months—so as to avoid having multiple interim titleholders floating around the division.
(Because that would obviously be too much, what with the importance and integrity of UFC titles and yadda yadda yadda can we get CM Punk another fight anytime soon? There’s debt to finance.)
The notion that anyone cares as much about Holloway fighting Pettis on a random card in December, for an interim title or otherwise, as much as they care about McGregor even tweeting what he ate for breakfast is ludicrous.
On Nov. 12, the Irishman officially became the biggest star the sport has ever seen when he became lightweight champion in the World’s Most Famous Arena, inspiring athletes to adopt his swaggering walk and drawing offers of equity from Marky Mark himself.
And to reward him for reaching an apex no UFC athlete has ever reached? Why, the UFC is stripping him of one of his titles for one of the dumbest reasons imaginable.
If the UFC wants to strip McGregor, fine. It’s as much their belt as it is his. But the reason has to be better than this. They’re taking his title without him losing it and giving it to a guy who never won it (and who McGregor one-punched less than a year ago), all to imaginarily validate the UFC 206 main event? The one no one cared for anyway?
At least strip him for inactivity or insolence or indifference to the featherweight division. Say it has something—anything—to do with him as a competitor. To take a title away from a man who just established himself as the sport’s one true king in the name of doing some erroneously perceived right by irrelevant contenders is basically promotional malpractice.
It makes you want to say, “come on, guys, you’re better than this,” only you don’t know that to be true. This is one of the first big moves the new UFC ownership regime will make, so it’s the first chance the world has to see how good their instincts are when it comes to promoting stars.
Doing this suggests those instincts may not be very good.
This is a stupid reason to strip Conor McGregor of his featherweight title. Look for the box office receipts for UFC 206, and for the future of the featherweight division, to prove that much.
Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!
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