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Click Debate: Where do two UFC titles land Conor McGregor on the pound-for-pound list?

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Let's get this out of the way first: Jon Jones is still the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

There's no way around this. Jones has never legitimately lost a fight, with a disqualification the only blemish on his exemplary record. He's knocked off a who's who of former champions and big names.

Jones is the best, there's no doubt. He's just inactive right now due to a one-year suspension handed down by an independent arbitration panel as part of his USADA doping case with more sanctions likely coming from the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC). "Bones" won't be back until July 2017 at the very earliest.

With him out of the picture for the time being, the top spot on the pound-for-pound list has to be kept warm by someone. Conventional wisdom puts Demetrious Johnson in that seat. But something happened last week that has never been done before: Conor McGregor became the first concurrent two-weight champion in UFC history.

McGregor dismantled then-lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the main event of UFC 205 in New York, eventually finishing a flawless performance with a second-round TKO. Last December, the brash Irishman starched Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to win the featherweight title.

If you're keeping score at home, that's two dominant victories in UFC title fights in two different weight classes in the last 11 months. It's what happened in between those victories over Aldo and Alvarez that will put a major question mark on McGregor's place on the pound-for-pound list.

This week's UFC official rankings have McGregor at No. 2 among all fighters in the promotion. Of course, those rankings have proven to be bogus time and time again, voted on by a "media" panel dotted with names of people few have heard of. Johnson is first, McGregor is right behind him, and bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz is at No. 3, followed by Daniel Cormier and Aldo.

Some might be tempted to put McGregor atop the list. What he's accomplished is unprecedented and truly incredible. And after all, being able to excel in multiple weight classes is sort of what pound-for-pound is supposed to be about. Maybe.

Either way, "The Notorious" is the UFC's biggest current star and perhaps the promotion's biggest financial draw of all time. Neither of those things is up for debate.

Now, if we're talking sheer in-cage accomplishments, there's no denying Johnson, if Jones is out of the picture. "Mighty Mouse" has won 10 in a row, has never lost at flyweight, and has defended the 125-pound title eight times. Johnson is two away from tying Anderson Silva's record of 10 title defenses with a fight coming up Dec. 3 at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale.

Johnson (24-2-1) has struggled to earn pay-per-view buys, but has been dominant in his performances against every contender. McGregor is the pound-for-pound monetary king, but he just hasn't done enough — yet — to usurp Johnson.

While Johnson has not lost a fight since 2011, McGregor was defeated just eight months ago and finished at that. Nate Diaz beat McGregor by second-round submission at UFC 196 in March. Yes, McGregor came back to avenge that loss at UFC 202 in August, but the "L" still counts against him in this case, regardless of those two gold belts on his shoulders.

I would also argue that Cruz needs to be ahead of McGregor on the mythical pound-for-pound list. That guy just doesn't lose. Cruz has not faced defeat since 2007. Granted, he was out for a good chunk of time during that stretch, but he returned from a multitude of injuries to beat T.J. Dillashaw to win back the bantamweight title he never lost in the cage back in January.

And then there's Cormier, who could truly make a case to be as high as No. 1, if not for Jones. Cormier, the UFC light heavyweight champion, has only ever lost to Jones in his career and has huge wins at heavyweight on top of this current run at 205. "DC" has a chance to further cement his spot among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world in a rematch with Anthony Johnson at UFC 206 on Dec. 10 in Toronto.

So, that's Johnson, Cruz and Cormier who probably have to be penciled in before McGregor on any list of top fighters, regardless of weight class. (Not that these lists actually mean a damn thing.)

Part of it is a tenure thing. McGregor, though it's hard to believe, has only been in the UFC since 2013. In these three years, he has beaten Aldo, Alvarez, Diaz, Max Holloway, and Dustin Poirier. That's a pretty damn good résumé for a guy who critics say has cherry picked opponents.

McGregor's path has been unconventional, which is the beauty of his story. If he did what everyone else does — and what some fans still want him to do — he wouldn't be the insane kind of draw he is. McGregor has been given the chance to be truly special by the UFC and has delivered just about every time in spectacular, memorable fashion.

Johnson might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now (again, with Jones inactive), but McGregor is the one making millions hand over fist regardless of some arbitrary, paper rankings.

In the decades to come, McGregor will be remembered as much or even more than any of his peers because of the high-profile nature of his fights, his impact on the sport and the history he's made. The man just stands out in every imaginable way. He's a unicorn.

All the while, Johnson's greatness has been displayed on a smaller stage. That doesn't reduce what he's done if we're boiling it down to just accomplishments inside the cage. And inside that cage is what pound-for-pound rankings — as silly as they might be — are all about.