Whether you like it or not, Conor McGregor has a stranglehold on the UFC.
This isn’t just limited to the lightweight division, but it also extends to the entire way that the organization is run. UFC executives have a monumental decision to make, and one that could impact how people view the organization:
- Chase money with Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz III
- Do the ‘right’ thing and pit Conor McGregor against interim champion Tony Ferguson
For many of us, the answer is clear. The UFC should match “The Notorious” against Tony Ferguson, who just recently won the UFC Interim Lightweight Championship. If Conor McGregor has any pride and respect for his title, he’ll also want to unify the belts and send Tony Ferguson packing.
Artem Lobov, a teammate of Conor McGregor, is certain that Conor wants to face Tony Ferguson next.
In my eyes, of course he [Conor] will fight Tony. Why wouldn’t he fight Tony? His belt is on the line. Some guy has this fake belt around his waist. Conor wants to take that away by all means. 100% he is going to fight Tony. That belt means a lot to Conor.
Yet, the lightweight division remains on hold. Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to fight against Tony Ferguson, who he believes is the “real champion”. To do this, the UFC would need to book McGregor vs. Diaz III, but it comes with a risk that Khabib is definitely aware of.
What if Nate Diaz defeats Conor McGregor?
While there is plenty of discussion regarding whether the fight should (or should not) take place, there is little conversation being had regarding what happens if Nate Diaz becomes victorious.
Let's safely assume that if the UFC is audacious enough to book the third fight between these two men, that they'll also make Conor McGregor defend his title against Nate Diaz.
Of course, it would be right for Conor to defend his title but should Nate Diaz be the man to challenge for it? Not at all. Especially since Tony Ferguson has earned his shot at McGregor.
If Nate Diaz defeats Conor McGregor, which isn't unlikely, it will send the entire division into a downward spiral. But more than anything, Khabib Nurmagomedov believes that the UFC will miss out on an enormous opportunity:
I'm a little bit worried about this fight [McGregor vs. Diaz III] if the UFC makes me vs. Tony, and Conor vs. Nate.
I think I'm going to beat Tony Ferguson and Diaz can beat Conor McGregor. The UFC will lose the big fight; me vs. Conor McGregor.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has a point. If the UFC goes with this route, and it pans out like this, they're stuck matching Diaz vs. Nurmagomedov. This fight isn't a bad one, but it wouldn't have the same impact as a McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov (or Tony Ferguson) fight.
Strangely enough, though, fans and media (myself included), are falling into the trap of assessing what's best for the UFC from a monetary perspective. We must be so far past the days when everything was just about fighting. Now, matchmakers, whether we like it or not, are influenced by immediate income and future income.
So let's talk fighting...
How can Nate Diaz defeat Conor McGregor?
Why specifically does Khabib Nurmagomedov believe Nate Diaz will beat Conor McGregor this time?
I think that Diaz can beat Conor. Now he understands that Conor doesn't have conditioning. He can push him for the first couple of rounds and at the end of the fight he can finish him.
This is the blueprint that's out there for the world to see. We saw a slightly adapted version in the first fight between the two in which Conor gassed quickly in the second round and shot a desperate takedown after being beaten up on the feet. In the second fight, it was much the same. Conor was clinical in the early moments. He used effective leg kicks to punish the lead leg of Nate Diaz. McGregor could also find a home for his killer left hand over and over.
But Khabib is right. Conor McGregor has a serious conditioning problem. When he is not fatigued, McGregor can (almost) do anything. Need proof? How about when he landed that gorgeous counter uppercut against the best boxer of our generation? As his time in the octagon (and boxing ring) progresses, we see a worsened version of "The Notorious".
It might not be as simple as McGregor needing to finish Nate Diaz in the early rounds, but it could also be just that simple.
Let's hope that the UFC stashes this fight for another day and instead schedules Conor McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson.
Sorry, Nate Diaz. But you can wait.
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