Last Saturday, during the broadcast of UFC Fight Night 101, the UFC made an important announcement. The promotion announced that Conor McGregor “relinquished” the featherweight belt. Millions of fans around the world might feel angry but it was definitely the best move for the UFC and the sport of MMA.
McGregor became the king of the featherweight division on December 12, 2015 at UFC 194. He put Jose Aldo to sleep in 13 seconds and ended his reign of six years as WEC/UFC champion. It was Jose Aldo’s first defeat in over 10 years.
Jose Aldo defended his belt 9 times in six years -even with him pulling out of fights more than a few times. Conor was the featherweight champion for 350 days during which he refused to defend his title. Instead, he pursued his own whims and fought twice at welterweight and once at lightweight during that time. The lightweight victory in his first fight ever in that division in UFC earned him the belt. The conquest made him the promotion’s first fighter to hold two divisional titles simultaneously.
During those 350 days, the top contenders of a stacked featherweight division were in limbo. They basically lost a year of their careers without the opportunity to fight for a belt. That, in turn, slowed down the division and deprived the fans from seeing more exciting fights with top fighters and more often.
But let’s not take any merit away from Conor McGregor. The man had a vision and created a persona to help him reach his dream. Did he receive protection and pampering from Dana White and the UFC? Definitely. It’s hard to remember another fighter being given the chance to handpick his opponents and get the better matchups under the best circumstances possible. The fighting game is a business and McGregor became the highest selling product on the shelves. It is only logic that the UFC played along as long as they were filling up their pockets in the process.
Now McGregor is the champion of another division. The UFC finally feels the business is safe and can strip him of a belt he never had intention to defend in the first place and restore the featherweight division.