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UFC 205 Aftermath: We're all living in Conor McGregor's world

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After UFC 196, a whole lot of fighters would have simply gone back to where they came from, had they been in Conor McGregor's shoes.

The prudent and safe thing to do, after going up in weight class and being submitted by a lightweight Nate Diaz in a welterweight fight, would have been to take your shiny featherweight title belt, return to your weight class, and continue to be a star, albeit not as big as star as you had dreamed you'd become.

But that's not how McGregor operates. Mystic Mac has been bold and audacious since he first arrived on the scene. It's the only way he knows how to operate. So instead of taking the safer route, McGregor redoubled his efforts, demanded an immediate rematch with Diaz at welterweight when everyone thought he was crazy for trying, and won.

And that led to Saturday's crowning moment. Twenty-three years to the day after the first UFC event, and nearly eight years since the last time someone even tried, McGregor stood in the middle of the Madison Square Garden ring, at the end of the first UFC event ever in New York City, as the first man ever to hold two weight-class titles at the same time.

Heading into 2017, McGregor owns the MMA world, and the rest of us are all just paying rent.

Not only does McGregor hold two titles, but with four of the five biggest PPVs in company history under his belt, he's not only left Ronda Rousey in his dust as the sport's No. 1 draw, but he's charting territory only seen by Floyd Mayweather in recent years.

And McGregor knows it, too, as he declared after the card he wants his piece of new UFC overlord WME-IMG's $4.2B pie.

We know what will play out next: McGregor and UFC president Dana White will go back to their metaphorical chess board. It will occasionally spill over into the public view. McGregor will leave a cryptic tweet or two. Not only will the likes of Jose Aldo, Max Holloway, and Frankie Edgar at featherweight continue to get their egos bruised, but Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and the rest at lightweight will all experience the same.

But then, none of those guys have ever shown the gumption McGregor did in 2016. If Aldo had the slightest bit of savvy, and had loudly announced he was chasing McGregor up to 155, he'd be in position today to be the lead candidate for McGregor's next fight. Instead, he took his ball and went home and vanished from the public eye.

Fortune favors the bold. Conor McGregor's next move is going to be whatever the hell Conor McGregor wants.

UFC 205 quotes

"He's fought once in eight years. He ain't fight too frequent for my liking. For me to commit to something like that, I need to see solid proof that people are gonna show up and he's a consistent pull-out merchant. He had a good performance tonight. Fair play to him." -- McGregor on likely No. 1 lightweight contender Nurmagomedov.

"Sitting here tonight we broke every record in UFC history tonight. Every record." -- White, on a show which broke Madison Square Garden's gate record at $17.7 million.

"I fought a bad fight. The idea wasn't to go in there and box and stand in front of him. I didn't fight a good fight." -- Alvarez, on FS1, on what went wrong.

"I'm a professional at the end of the day. To be honest, if you want to get to me, you can get to me." -- Tyron Woodley, clearly not happy with lending his belt to McGregor for his postfight celebration.

Stock report

Up: Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson The welterweight title fight proved that a well-fought draw can elevate both competitors. Both Woodley and Thompson showed they can take everything their opponents can dish out and turn the fight back in their favor. Both showed they're capable of adapting to a fight with wild swings. Both showed they've got the endurance to go five hard rounds with one an absolute killer standing in front of him. Both showed championship heart. Both had moments in the fight which would have finished nearly anyone else in the division. A draw was a just result after this superlative meeting, and a Woodley-Thompson rematch is a no-brainer.

Up: Yoel Romero Perhaps the most maddening thing about Romero is that he's so damn talented, he shouldn't need all these shady things that always seem to pop up around him. The latest being Romero needing to be toweled off by the referee before the start of last night's second round against Chris Weidman. But then Romero went out and turned the fight in his favor for good with a lightning-like throw, and finished it in the third with a devastating knee. At the end of the day, for all the reasons you can criticize him, Romero is going to earn a shot at Michael Bisping's middleweight title on his merits.

Down: Chris Weidman The way Weidman's last two fights have finished lend themselves to far too much second-guessing: What's gone wrong? Does he need a change of approach or scenery? Has he been injured too often? Or is it simply a bad run he'll get through eventually? Weidman was absolutely brutalized by Luke Rockhold in losing the middleweight title last year, lost an absolutely vicious knockout to Romero last night, and suffered a neck injury in between. I'm not going to pretend to have the answers, but Weidman is one of the nicest guys in the business and this is starting to get painful to watch.

Hold: Miesha Tate I can't quite shake the feeling that a year or 18 months down the road, Tate is going to announce that she's refreshed after taking time away from the sport and is ready to make her big comeback. Maybe I'm inclined to feel that way because resilience is the hallmark of Tate's career. She's not the most technically skilled fighter in the world, but damn if she isn't one of the toughest, and damn if she doesn't bounce back every single time you count her out. So if this really is the end, Miesha Tate will be remembered not only as a pioneer of women's mixed martial arts and a two-time world champion, but one of the very toughest fighters ever to compete in the cage. That's one hell of a legacy.

Up: Khabib Nurmagomedov Who knows what happens next in the UFC lightweight division now that McGregor holds two belts? But there's no denying Nurmagomedov is doing everything in his power to control the things he can. Once he took control of his bout with Michael Johnson, he never relinquished it, putting on an awe-inspiring display. When he went for a submission in the third round instead of piling on more ground and pound, it almost seemed like a mercy killing. What's next is out of his hands, but there's no denying he stated his case to the best of his abilities.

Interesting calls

We haven't had a scorecard screwup like the one at the end of Woodley-Thompson since the wrong winner was announced after Matt Serra vs. Din Thomas. And that was at UFC 41. So let's maybe slow our roll on the notion New York should replace Las Vegas as the new MMA fight capitol until the New York State Athletic Commission learns the difference between a majority draw and a split decision. And a special shout-out to judge Doug Crosby, who had a 10-8 in his Woodley-Thompson scorecard ... but for Round 1, not Round 4. Come again?

Meanwhile, UFC president Dana White tried to pin the fact McGregor almost went without his moment holding two belts in the Octagon on McGregor, but no, that's absolutely on the promotion. McGregor becoming the first fighter to hoist two belts in the cage is an all-time iconic moment in the sport, and the UFC came damn close to blowing it.

Beyond those little bumps in the road, though? New York, you absolutely got the historic, memorable show you've been waiting on all these years. The home of everything from the Ali-Frazier Fight of the Century to the birth of WrestleMania got another historic fight card to add to its endless resume. UFC 205 was well worth the wait and a reward for all the loyal fans in New York state who never gave up the faith they'd see mixed martial arts at Madison Square Garden some day.

Fights I'd like to see next

I can't just do one coming off a show like last night's. I'm limiting myself to three here, but we could probably do about 10:

*Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3: Look, no matter what McGregor decides to do next, someone's going to get angry. Two division's worth of fighters, in fact. But if we look at the landscape in 2017, Conor is looking to take some time off to have a kid and Rousey's career MMA career might not even make it past the New Year. McGregor-Diaz 3 could very well be the first UFC PPV to crack two million buys, and with no other megafights on the horizon, and a $4.2B bill to pay, WME-IMG is going to need it.

*Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson: So with McGregor-Diaz in mind, it's time to settle the Nurmy-Ferguson debate once and for all. Yes, Nurmagomedov looked like an absolute killer Saturday night. But Ferguson also isn't going to be anywhere near as easy to catch as Johnson, and if as stationary a target as Johnson was able to tag Khabib, an inventive striker like Ferguson could give him fits. My gut feeling is this fight is a lot closer than people seem to think coming off last night.

*Woodley-Thompson 2: The only answer at welterweight. The champion did not defeat his challenger. Sorry for Demian Maia, but we already have the template for this one: Just like Anthony Pettis had to sit when Edgar and Gray Maynard went to a draw, Woodley and Thompson still have more pressing business to settle.

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