UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor?s defeat at the hands of Nate Diaz was a huge setback for his career. McGregor was supposed to challenge Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight belt but a foot injury incurred two weeks before the UFC 196 forced Dos Anjos to pull out of the match. Diaz had stepped up to face McGregor in a card that became a welterweight non-title fight.
McGregor entered the contest weighing 168-lbs and after enjoying a successful first round with strikes and a stomp kick to Diaz’s knee, got fatigued quickly and was unable to break the more experienced American in his 22nd UFC fight. Diaz forced McGregor to tap out with 48 seconds left in the second round on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
So what?s next for the Irishman?
McGregor has now been forced to reconsider his ambitions in the higher weight divisions and is expected to return 25-lbs down to the featherweight division, wherein there are several challengers he could face. It remains to be seen whether he would be facing former champion Jose Aldo Jr. or go up against top contender Frankie Edgar.
The former Brazilian champion Jose Aldo is the favorite for a rematch consideration as McGregor had stopped Aldo in one of the quickest title fight knockout in UFC history. The Irishman defeated Aldo at UFC 194 last December when he scored a sensational knockout victory in just 13 seconds of the first round. Aldo has been angry since losing in such a fashion and has been calling for a rematch.
“It’s kind of hard not to give Jose his shot because he was 10 years undefeated,” McGregor said at the post-fight press conference at the MGM Grand. “But he pulls out a lot, he doesn’t show up a lot. Frankie, at least he gets in there and competes.”
“I’ll keep my ear to the ground and see who the fans want,” McGregor added. “Whatever the fans want is the fight that makes sense.”
McGregor could go up against Edgar, who has long been campaigning for a shot at the Irishman and who is currently riding on a five-fight win streak, according to MirrorUK. His last victory was at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale when he scored an impressive victory against Chad Mendes, knocking him out after just two minutes and 28 seconds.
He has also recorded wins over Urijah Faber, BJ Penn, Cub Swanson and Alex Oliviera during his impressive run and is considered by many as the number one contender in the featherweight division for over a year now. Edgar has started to become more vocal about being overlooked and being denied a title shot so it is likely we may see both of them in the arena at the UFC 200.
Another opponent who could be a logical choice against McGregor is Max Holloway. Holloway is the only fighter in the UFC to take McGregor to a decision when he fought the Irishman back in Boston in 2013 where he lost by a unanimous decision. The 24-year-old has slowly crept back up the featherweight rankings, winning eight consecutive fights. Just two of those fights have come via decision with his most notable win coming over Jeremy Stephens in December.
Meanwhile, McGregor isn’t giving up his dream of going up another weight class despite having his hopes crushed before and after the UFC 196. He was thwarted in challenging Dos Anjos for the lightweight belt following the latter?s foot injury. Dos Anjos was riding on a five-fight win streak since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedev by decision in April 2014. The lightweight champ has also beaten back all top fighters from the division, including Diaz at a catchweight of 160 pounds. The fight wouldn?t have been easy for McGregor, who had his hopes of going up another division further derailed when he lost to Diaz.
Or McGregor could try his luck back in the welterweight and fight Nate once again. That remains highly unlikely though but it could be possible if Nate instead fights at lightweight.
McGregor went as far to say that if Diaz could defeat Dos Anjos, then there could be a rematch between the two of them. “I think I will get my shot at the lightweight belt again,” McGregor said. “Maybe me and Nate will do it again.”