Conor McGregor won the UFC featherweight championship on December 12, 2015, at UFC 194. He determined to be the first man to hold two UFC belts simultaneously, so a fight was scheduled for UFC 196 on March 5, 2016, vs. then lightweight Rafael dos Anjos. 12 days before the fight, RDA withdrew with a knee injury, and 11 days before the fight, Nate Diaz took it.
That fight was improbably held at welterweight, as Diaz didn’t have time to drop properly to 156. Diaz won, and UFC president Dana White indicated it was trending to be the biggest PPV in league history. Rather than defend his featherweight belt, or go for the lightweight title, a rematch with Diaz was the only thing that made sense.
It made dollars and sense – McGregor won a majority decision at UFC 202, on August 20, 2016, and it was the largest-selling UFC PPV ever. In the meantime, with McGregor busy fighting Diaz, RDA fought Eddie Alvarez at UFC Fight Night 90 on July 7, 2016, and lost.
McGregor holds three of the four biggest-selling UFC PPVs ever. Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez vocally wants to make the millions that would come from fighting McGregor, and McGregor wants to make history. But, there is reportedly a sticking point.
Only two men have held UFC belts in two divisions – BJ Penn and Randy Couture. McGregor wants to top that, becoming the first man to hold two simultaneously. The UFC reportedly wants to defend the integrity of their belts, and is requiring McGregor to defend the featherweight belt against interim champion Jose Aldo, or give it up.
So the UFC was planning on having Alvarez fight #1 contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, at UFC 205, the league’s triumphant return to New York on November 12, 2016, at Madison Square Garden. White tweeted that that was the match they were trying to make. Nurmagomedov was tweeted giddily at the prospect.
Now Megan Olivi on FS1’s UFC Tonight on FS1 reports that Alvarez missed the contract deadline for UFC 205, so Alvarez vs. Nurmagomedov is targeted for UFC 206, when the promotion returns to Toronto, Ontario on December 10, 2016. A record was set in Toronto too.
On April 30, 2011, at UFC 129, 55,724 spectators paid $12,075,000 to watch GSP defend his title against Jake Shields. It is believed to be the largest live gate in Canadian history, beating the Rolling Stones, the Stanley Cup, and The Olympics. So the UFC wants an incredible main event in Toronto.
UFC president Dana White also said on UFC Tonight that McGregor was unlikely to be available at UFC 205 as he was rehabbing a knee injury. That report was quickly refuted by McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh, who said absolutely ‘Notorious’ is ready to fight on Nov. 12.
So it appears that the UFC wants McGregor to defend his featherweight title or give it up and challenge for the lightweight title. McGregor sees nothing historic in trying to beat Aldo again, so is holding out for a shot at a new belt, while holding onto his first one. The UFC has not been able to come to terms with the fighter, so are at least threating to move on. Unfortunately, it all took so long that none of the above will be headlining the return to New York.
The UFC did make five fights official for the card:
Donald Cerrone vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens
Rashad Evans vs. Tim Kennedy
Tim Boetsch vs. Rafael Natal
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Liz Carmouche
It is a great card. But the UFC has not been held in New York since 1995 at UFC 7. And Madison Square Garden is the most important arena in combat sports history. The event is screaming for an extraordinary main event.
Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez would be extraordinary. McGregor promises to fight Aldo next. Nurmagomedov would rightly be upset, but it’s worth it.