Conor McGregor entered UFC 202 as the biggest name in mixed martial arts, and he ended the night as an even bigger star. The Irish fighter got revenge on Nate Diaz with a unanimous decision victory in a five-round war that left both men bloodied and bruised.
Now, the sports world is waiting on what’s next for McGregor.
“We got a lot to talk about and I’m in a beautiful, beautiful position right now,” McGregor said in the post-fight press conference. “And that was built through hard work and I’m going to capitalize on that. We’ll see. There’s a lot of stuff in the pipeline. S*** is about to hit the fan here.”
In the weeks leading up to their rematch, McGregor said that he believed his feud with Diaz would become a trilogy. After Saturday’s battle, there appears to be no doubt that the two fighters will meet again in the octagon to settle the score.
But it might not happen right away.
Even though his last two fights have come against Diaz at 170 pounds, McGregor remains the UFC featherweight champion. He won the 145-pound belt against Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds last December, but he’s yet to defend the title. UFC president Dana White has made it clear that McGregor must put his belt on the line against Aldo, or forfeit the title.
"We're definitely not doing this a third time right now," White said on FOX Sports 1. "I don't think there's anybody that doesn't want to see this fight again, but Conor's either going to go defend his title or give his title up and then we'll figure out where to go from there."
Aldo wasn’t given an automatic rematch for the belt that he held for five years. He had to earn it by defeating Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 by unanimous decision. The victory made Aldo the interim featherweight champion, but McGregor isn’t ready to commit to facing the Brazilian fighter.
After needing just 13 seconds to knockout Aldo at UFC 194, McGregor doesn’t seem to want a rematch, and he isn’t convinced that UFC will strip him of the belt.
"It's hard for me to get excited about that, especially after his last performance," McGregor said. "It was a decision, he didn't go out and get it. He didn't go out and get it like I wanted him to get it. So I don't know, we'll see.”
As the biggest star UFC has ever had, McGregor has plenty of options, and he’ll likely get whatever fight he wants. UFC gave him the rematch with Diaz at welterweight that he desperately wanted, even though the promotion urged him to go back down to 145 pounds.
While McGregor does want to face Diaz again, he wants the fight to be at 155 pounds. McGregor was supposed to challenge then-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos for his 155-pound belt at UFC 196, but Diaz took the fight at 170 pounds on 11 days’ notice when the champ got hurt. Now that he's avenged his 170-pound loss, McGregor insists that his third fight against Diaz will be on his terms.
If the featherweight champ is going to have a fight before McGregor-Diaz III and he doesn’t want to face Aldo, he could challenge for the lightweight belt. Eddie Alvarez knocked out dos Anjos in the first round of their title fight at UFC 200. A fight against Alvarez would give McGregor a chance to fulfill his dream of winning belts in multiple weight classes.
— Eddie Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) August 21, 2016
A fight against McGregor would easily be the biggest of Alvarez’s career, and he would almost certainly welcome the challenge, as well as the payday. Diaz was guaranteed a reported $2 million for Saturday’s fight.
Whether McGregor’s next fight is against Diaz, Aldo, Alvarez or someone else, UFC 202 ensured that it will be one of the most highly anticipated bouts of all time.