Conor McGregor, the reigning featherweight champion of the UFC, will fight for the third time since winning that title last December when he faces Eddie Alvarez in the main event at UFC 205 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Here’s the thing: Alvarez is the lightweight champion.
And you can’t talk about the third thing without talking about the first two things: McGregor’s previous two fights were at welterweight against Nate Diaz.
It is a phenomenon unique to McGregor, himself a one-of-a-kind fighter who talks big, acts big, fights big and often. Just not quite in the division for which he is the recognized king.
The subject has befuddled many MMA observers as well as many MMA fighters.
“I couldn’t even write it up or imagine it because I just don’t really know what’s on going on,” said Frankie Edgar, a top-ranked featherweight, at UFC 205 media day Wednesday. “There’s really no rhyme or reason to who gets title shots lately. I just need to keep winning fights to put myself in the discussion and see what happens, really. A lot of it weighs on what Conor does.”
In reality, a lot also depends on what the UFC does. Should McGregor defeat Alvarez, UFC president Dana White said McGregor would have to vacate one of the belts. McGregor has disagreed with that all along.
“I’ll army up and then I’ll see what kind of army they bring and then we’ll go from there,” McGregor said at Thursday’s pre-fight news conference. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Last December, Edgar knocked out Chad Mendes in the first round and heard the boss all but promise the next 145-pound title shot to Edgar.
But that was on a Friday. By Saturday night, after McGregor obliterated then champion Jose Aldo with a one-punch knockout in 13 seconds, the narrative switched to McGregor moving up to challenge lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos.
That McGregor-Dos Anjos fight was booked, then later scrapped when Dos Anjos pulled out with an injury inside of two weeks. So McGregor fought Diaz at welterweight and lost, then demanded a rematch, also at welterweight, and won a majority decision.
Dos Anjos then lost his title to Alvarez, Edgar’s teammate, in July.
Edgar fights Jeremy Stephens on Saturday, and a win “puts me close” to a title shot, he said.
Edgar did get a shot at the interim featherweight title last July at UFC 200, losing by decision to Aldo. Few people view the interim title in any division as something more than a footnote on a career resume. Aldo has since said he would retire after not getting another shot at McGregor, but that also could be a negotiating tactic by the Brazilian legend.
Edgar, however, isn’t screaming about things not going his way. He’s too pragmatic.
“I’m not one to be a baby about anything and feel sorry for myself,” Edgar said. “I had an opportunity slip in July and that was my fault. It’s no one else’s fault. So i have to make sure that doesn’t repeat again.”