When Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz rematch at UFC 202 in August they may well be fighting for more than pride; they might be fighting for a shot at the UFC lightweight title.
Earlier this month Eddie Alvarez upset Rafael dos Anjos to become the UFC lightweight champion. In the aftermath of his title win, questions abound over who would get the first shot at the new champion with both Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov riding long winning streaks in the division. But the champ seems to have other intentions. Yesterday in an interview with Luis Gomez and Dave Smith on SiriusXM Rush's The Countdown, Alvarez discussed his plans for the lightweight title and why he thinks rankings don't matter.
"Initially I want the winner of Conor-Nate. I would like a big pay-per-view, big money fight. I'm willing to wait for one of them guys. I almost got in a fight with Nate in Mexico City so maybe we can settle our differences, and if Conor happens to win I welcome that fight as well.
"The number one contender in my weight class has fought once in about the last three years or something. So I'm a little nervous about fighting a guy like that who barely shows up to fight. So Conor and Nate, they're the guys on my radar, one of them I'd really like to get my hands on."
Nurmagomedov has actually fought three times in the last three years but did sit out all of 2015 due to injury troubles. His return fight earlier this year was supposed to be against Ferguson in a title eliminator but Ferguson was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury, forcing Nurmagomedov to face Darrell Horcher on short notice. His win before that was a dominant decision victory over the man Alvarez unseated to become champion, Rafael dos Anjos, which is why Nurmagomedov is currently the top-ranked lightweight contender.
On the other hand, McGregor is the UFC featherweight champion and unranked at lightweight (though he does have a victory over eighth-ranked lightweight Dustin Poirier) and Diaz is the fourth-ranked lightweight, behind both Ferguson and Nurmagomedov, as well as dos Anjos. But Alvarez isn't too concerned with what the rankings are nor does he think they show who should necessarily get the next title shot.
"Rankings are subjective anyway. For someone to say, ‘This guy's number one,' who claims him to be number one and why is he number one? That's a question we've got to ask ourselves. It's subjective. So to say, ‘The guy is number one, he should get the title shot,' it's not necessarily so.
"Look at the case between Tony Ferguson and Khabib. Tony Ferguson is 8-0, he's been active for the last God-knows-how-what, he's been finishing opponents, been on a tear; Khabib's fought once in three years and he's number one and he decides he wants a title shot? The last guy he beat was virtually un-ranked - maybe top 100 in the world - and he's the number one guy in the world. So who says that? Who makes that up? Who appoints him number one? That being said, make the fights that make sense. Make the fights the fans want to see. Who gives a shit about the rankings?"
Certainly not the UFC. It was announced earlier this month that Dan Henderson would be challenging Michael Bisping for the UFC middleweight championship despite currently being the No. 13-ranked middleweight. The explanation for Henderson's receiving the title shot is primarily based on fan interest in the match-up, which seems to be the dominant factor in matchmaking decisions these days. If that truly is the case, there can be little doubt that a title bout against McGregor or Diaz would stir up much more interest than one against either of the more traditionally deserving challengers.
As for who Alvarez believes he will face, the champion thinks this fight will look a lot like the last one.
"I think Nate wins the same exact way he won the first time."
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I feel like all fighters do this.
You ask how I do it? I train even when no one wants to fight me! Hi Mickey @bisping #ynuevo @ufcpic.twitter.com/n3Mq8jk3e3— Yoel Romero (@YoelRomeroMMA) July 21, 2016
Bet you won't swing.
@YoelRomeroMMA @ufc lol so pathetic. Let it go bro. #suspended #usada #steroids— michael (@bisping) July 21, 2016
@bisping @ufc pathetic is you picking @danhendo to fight and not me #scared #ticktock #ynuevo— Yoel Romero (@YoelRomeroMMA) July 21, 2016
Just hanging out with the UFC champ @joannamma on top of the world on the #skydeck @ Skydeck…https://t.co/VgtAKGXPLN— Michelle Waterson (@karatehottiemma) July 21, 2016
Come and get it from the source. #TheMacLife pic.twitter.com/ZUGDH6bIIL— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) July 22, 2016
Guys now I've become invincible... Nobody can beat me and my spies... Sometimes we aren't taken seriously, and othertimes we joke around and get taken too seriously, so... let's clarify I've always fought fair. I got to the top through a lot of hard work- both mine and my team's. I am a principled person and fighter. My team is renowned for its development of tough, technical fighters but also for our collective character, and that's what we'll continue to be known for. I'd never do anything that goes against our principles. I fight clean, I fight fair, and I fight tough. When I talked about having spies in Edgar's camp, it was a reference to a comment Macgregor made before our fight. It was just a jab. Everyone knows you can't change up your entire strategy on fight week- of course Frankie's strategy was going to be everything that worked for him in our first fight- it was a no-brainer that he would try the same things. As to spies in camp, relax people...my spies are just in your heads. I'm ready for anyone, no spies required. Abraços to all.
Esther is the best.
The Chris is back.
Annnnnddddd I'm cleared ! 1st day back. Thanks to @jyellin and @professionalphysicaltherapy for getting me in with the best doctors and rehabbing me any day or time. Thanks to Dr. Riew for doing an amazing job with the surgery. Went smoother then a knee scope. Belt is coming back! Thanks to @raylongomma and @erichyertko for holding for me today. @law_mma
A Dodson-Arlovski show is exactly the type of show that fight pass should be making.
Brad Tavares (13-4-0) vs. Caio Magalhaes (9-2-0); UFC 203, September 10.
Belal Muhammad (9-1-0) vs. Augusto Montano (15-2-0); UFC Fight Night 94, September 17.
Roan Carneiro (20-10-0) vs. Kenny Robertson (15-4-0); UFC Fight Night 94, September 17.
Colby Covington (9-1-0) vs. Max Griffin (10-2-0); UFC 202, August 20.
Ryan Benoit (8-4-0) vs. Freddy Serrano (3-0-0); UFC 201, July 30.
Davi Ramos (4-1-0) vs. Ray Cercera (9-5-0); RFA 42, August 19.
Rousimar Palhares (18-7-0) vs. Michal Materla (23-5-0); KSW 36, October 1.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
1996: Pete Williams, he of the first head kick KO in the UFC, made his MMA debut at Pancrase 1996, Neo-Blood Tournament , Round 1, defeating Kiuma Kunioku via decision.
Man, I understand that Eddie wants the big money fight and that is definitely the Nate-Conor winner, but the ease with which people can now duck fighters is unfortunate. I in no way think Eddie Alvarez is scared of anyone, but I also think he knows that Khabib Who Wrestles Bears and Tony Ferguson are much more difficult fights for him than either Nate or Conor and so it's nice that he can get an easier fight. It's just kind of frustrating that the best lightweight in the world is going to spend at least another year waiting for his shot at gold (for clarity, I'm referring to Khabib though T-Ferg has a legit claim and will also have to wait that long). Having said all of that, this is still lightweight so there is no such thing as an easy fight and (in my humble opinion) Alvarez loses to all four of them. Lightweight is a crucible man.
And just like that, another week is in the books. A pretty lackluster card tomorrow but some sneaky fun fights if nothing else. The main event could be a five-round snoozer but at least it has real stakes as the winner is either in line for a title shot or (depending on Rousey's return) in line for a title eliminator. Enjoy the fights M.Rmy and have a good weekend.
If you find something you'd like to see in the Morning Report, just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and let me know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram and add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting because we post dope things and you should enjoy them.