The old saying is that styles make fights; Robinson vs Hearns, Ali vs Frazier or Lewis vs Tyson all spring to mind as good examples. But at UFC 194 we were promised a clash of styles bigger than any other in the sport. However that is not what we got, what we got was bigger than simple clash of styles. A 13 second knockout in a fight between two of the best fighters in the MMA world is a moment of history, a point which will be remembered for the rest of MMA history and beyond. The ‘where were you when McGregor once and for all proved he could back up his mouth?’ question will be thrown out in gyms and bars for a long time into the future. It was a titanic shift in the business. McGregor said he would take over the whole division and for all intents and purposes he has. The question now is ‘what’s next?’
For Dana and Lorenzo the question of booking is no small thing now. This was a fight that you would have put good money on being the start of a rivalry that had already been brewing outside the ring for most of the year. But a one punch knockout sort of undercuts the whole idea of a rivalry, I mean how do you build up a fight with the same level of hype when it was finished so decidedly and so quickly the first time. However the fans (me included) want to see what would have happened had the fight been allowed to develop into the aforementioned battle of styles. And a rematch may not break records for PPV buys like the first given the fact that the fight was so decisive. It makes it much harder to build up a fight as ‘the unstoppable force meets immovable object’ when the unstoppable force was stopped more abruptly then a rally car hitting a tree. So Dana & Co have a problem in booking a rematch from that point of view. But they do have one of the most charismatic champions in all of sports right now and though Jose’s legacy might be damaged, however his reputation as a top MMA fighter isn’t disappearing after one bad loss.
So what does McGregor do now? As the undisputed champion and as the darling of UFC media department he is the one holding most of the cards at this point in time. With his visions of dominance now a reality and a well earned break on the cards Mcgregor has some things to think about and to negotiate no doubt. He has taken on all comers so far but Frankie Edgar has proven he should get a shot at the featherweight title. Whether or not McGregor chooses to or is forced to defend featherweight title largely depends on if or when McGregor moves up to the lightweight division. Now the problem here, as I’m sure most of you heard by now, is that UFC usually strips champions who move weight classes because a champion must be active at that weight. Now McGregor claims because he fights a few times a year that he can maintain the belt at featherweight while moving up for lightweight which I don’t doubt he could, but ultimately it will come down to a business decision between UFC brass and McGregor and how hard they’re willing to fight each other over this issue.
For Aldo however there is really only one option; go back to Brazil, rest and recuperate and get into a fight again, soon. The quicker Aldo gets in the ring and returns to fighting ways the quicker the image of his breathtaking knockout will fade from the minds of the UFC faithful. Although that image is consigned to history forever there is still a lot Aldo can do in future in order retake control of the narrative of his legacy that he cares so much about. But who to fight? Mendes again? After he lost to Edgar a Mendes fight is probably not a good idea for box office but maybe just what he needs to get back to winning ways. A straight rematch seems unlikely for all the reasons listed above, and if there is one it will be on McGregor terms which might be worse for Aldo. The most likely outcome is that Aldo fights Frankie Edgar, which will undoubtedly annoy Frankie quite a bit, but will clearly define a number one contender in the featherweight division.
In the end we didn’t get a classic fight from Aldo vs McGregor but we got something much better. We got to witness a significant moment of sporting history. Because in the end who remembers all 14 rounds of the Thrilla in Manila? Or the opening exchanges between Lewis and Tyson? No one really, but people remember the Kodak moments, the knockouts and stoppages that ended hype and answered all the questions. We witnessed the end of a ten-year win streak, the fulfilling of a seven year old prophecy and the culmination of a almost a year trash talking, promos and accusations about testicular fortitude.
The effects of this fight are likely to be felt for a years into the UFC’s future but the knockout will be remembered long after all the talk and opinions about who is/was better begins to fade into memory. This will be something enshrined in sporting legend alongside, Fight of the Century, No Mas, The Drive, The Shot, The Treble and the rest of the great touch stones of sporting history. The King is Dead, Long Live the King.