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John Kavanagh says UFC 196 should serve as 'a lesson' for future Conor McGregor opponents

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Conor McGregor is batting .500 in the unluckiest way. When Rafael dos Anjos dropped out of UFC 196 due to a broken foot, the UFC lightweight champion became the fourth opponent to pull out of a McGregor fight over the Irishman's eight Octagon appearances. And in a Wednesday column penned for Irish outlet The 42, McGregor's head coach at SBG Ireland, John Kavanagh, couldn't help but notice the trend.

"Six of Conor's last 12 opponents have pulled out," Kavanagh wrote. "Even if a certain fighter is not announced as Conor's original opponent, every guy who's in some way in the mix to face him in the future should be staying prepared, because there's a 50-percent chance there'll be an opening.

"If you want to fight Conor McGregor, get ready -- even when someone else has got the gig. There's only a handful of names who could have received the call, so they should have been ready. There's a lesson to be learned here for any guy who genuinely wants the opportunity."

Dos Anjos' withdrawal led a flurry of activity on Tuesday, as the UFC scrambled to find a replacement opponent to fight McGregor on March 5. Nate Diaz was ultimately selected for the role, with the heat from his December post-fight callout of McGregor still fresh in the fight world's mind. However the UFC also looked to the two men who most desired a shot at the featherweight champion: Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo.

The two former titleholders have been the loudest rivals calling for an opportunity to meet McGregor. Both declined the fight on less than two weeks' notice for valid reasons, as Edgar is nursing a groin injury and Aldo only recently returned to training following his Dec. 12 knockout loss to McGregor. The irony of their decisions, though, was not lost on Kavanagh.

"I did find it somewhat interesting, however, that Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar both turned it down," Kavanagh wrote. "I seem to recall them insisting quite recently that they were willing to fight Conor 'any time and any place.' Obviously they forgot to mention that 5 March in Las Vegas was an exception.

"Back in September, Conor said something significant at the UFC's ‘Go Big' press conference. He told every contender from 145lbs to 170lbs to stay ready because it's not uncommon for his opponents to pull out. There's a pattern emerging that one fighter pulls out, another fighter steps in and then it's passed off as being a short-notice fight. It's not."

The removal of dos Anjos from the equation changes the stakes significantly for UFC 196. McGregor was set to attempt to become the first UFC champion to ever hold concurrent titles in two divisions. He may still try to do so -- Kavangh said that McGregor vs. dos Anjos "still makes sense for the summer" -- but in the interim, Diaz at least presents the chance to stage a fun fight that should provide promotional fireworks.

So while the way UFC 196 turned out may not be ideal, Kavanagh believes the UFC was able to salvage the best it could from a bad situation -- even if McGregor had to move up a second weight class to do it.

"In a time when so many fighters are unwilling to compete due to a wide variety of little issues -- not enough notice, minor injuries, etc. -- Conor's mindset is unique. He could have walked away from this without consequences but that never came into consideration.

"In order to widen the search for an opponent, he committed to fight as high as 170lbs and that was it. That's two weight classes up from his last fight, which only happened a couple of months ago. It's a mindset that hasn't been seen before and I doubt we'll see it again."

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