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Fightweets: Conor McGregor is no co-feature fighter

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

An eventful UFC 235 led to a typical MMA news week, where we learned Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone might not happen because apparently the UFC wants McGregor to be the co-main event on International Fight Week. Wait, what? Sounds like we’ve got something to discuss in Fightweets ...

Conor McGregor, headliner

@tvanvoorhis12: I do not like Conor at all, but if anyone actually suggests he should be in any spot other than the main event they’re insane. He’s the most popular fighter on the planet right now and it’s not even remotely close

The news which leaked out in drips and drabs this week, first from Joe Rogan, then from Cerrone, which said that the holdup preventing a bout between the Cowboy and Conor on International Fight Week is that the UFC wants McGregor to compete in the co-feature spot, underneath a main event yet to be named, and McGregor wants no part of the idea.

And I really want to hope there’s some other reason which hasn’t surfaced in the public beyond this, because I cannot wrap my brain around the idea the UFC could in any way consider this a good idea.

Let’s just recap here: McGregor is responsible for five of the six biggest pay-per-view buy rates in UFC history, and that doesn’t even count his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, which blew the rest out of the water.

Oh and the last time we saw Conor in the cage, against Khabib Nurmagomedov, he did 2.4 million buys, the largest PPV event in UFC history.

Does that sound like someone you should demote to co-feature status?

McGregor could fight a broomstick in his next fight, and it would draw a bigger buy rate than nearly any other fight the company could put on. Match him up against the perfect B-side in Cerrone, a longtime, popular fighter coming off strong ESPN exposure in his last fight, in a bout which promises fireworks, and yeah, that fight should not take a backseat to anyone, not Jon Jones, not Daniel Cormier, not Brock Lesnar, not whatever else might be getting cooked up.

Somewhere down the road, sure, McGregor will come down from the mountaintop, and things could get ugly. One suspects, given the piles of money he’s made, the former two-weight-class champion will call it a career before he lets himself gets positioned as anything but the star of the show. Either way, that’s not a fight between the promoter and the star which should be happening now or any time soon.

If this is about WME’s absurd insistence on having a title fight atop every PPV, then, fine ... Floyd Mayweather never defended the Moneyweight belt from MayMac. Make this for the interim Moneyweight belt, let the UFC satisfy their bizarre title fight fetish, and let us have the damn main event we should get.

If it’s really as simple as a power play, though, good on McGregor for letting the UFC know that he still knows what he’s worth.

Rematch for T-Wood?

@tbilbrey1: There’s an argument that Woodley deserves a rematch based on his resume as champion. However, would you give him the rematch based on how one sided the score/fight was on Saturday? Sounds like Covington will get the next fight though.

Tyron Woodley laid out the case for his rematch as clear-cut as you possibly can after he lost to Kamaru Usman at UFC 235.

It’s worth remembering that when Woodley knocked out Robbie Lawler to win the belt at UFC 201, the belt had pinballing around in the absence of Georges St-Pierre from Johny Hendricks to Lawler to Woodley. Woodley brought an even-handed stability to welterweight and defeated a credible cast of contenders in Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Darren Till. At worst, he’s the third-best UFC welterweight champ of all-time behind a pair of Hall of Famers in GSP and Matt Hughes.

But still, that was one horribly one-sided loss suffered by Woodley at UFC 235, one in which a scored of 50-42 would have been more credible than the 50-45 card that landed (the other two were 50-44). It wouldn’t be a service to anyone for go straight back to a rematch, including Woodley, who would be better off getting another fight in to work out the kinks before marching right back in with a straight killer in Usman.

Marc Goddard took some heat for his decisions during the Kamaru Usman-Tyron Woodley fight.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Usman-Woodley officiating

@fightfeedhq: What’s your thoughts on the madness going on with Marc Goddard? Do you think he messed up in the Usman - Woodley fight?

Ehh, I think the complaints about the job Goddard did officiating Usman’s UFC welterweight title victory over Woodley was a bit overblown.

Were Goddard’s restarts a bit on the quick side? Sure. He could have let things play out longer. But nor were they egregiously bad, and none of them did Woodley any good anyway.

But where the referee didn’t help his cause when the mics picked him up telling Usman, basically, that they were there to fight. Yeah, no kidding. Usman was in the process of absolutely mauling Woodley in one of the most one-sided five-round title changes we’ve ever seen. I don’t think he needed a reminder he was in a fight.

The UFC has commentators sitting just outside the cage to issue their opinions on the fight. Unless we’re talking a Derrick Lewis-Francis Ngannou or Kimbo Slice-Dada 5000 lack of action, the referee doesn’t need to make this sort of a comment, and in this case, it made an iffy restart seem worse than it was.

New challenger for Bones?

@Josh_Rocket: Do you think Johnny Walker could realistically be the man to beat Jon Jones one day?

There’s a long way to go before we call any fighter the guy who will finally defeat a champion who has never legitimately lost a fight. Hell, Daniel Cormier has run through everyone he’s faced except Jon Jones and became a champ-champ in the process, and even he’s come up short in two attempts. So it’s a bit soon to call Johnny Walker the guy who might knock Jones off his perch

And yet ... the mere fact people are starting to ponder this question after Walker’s knockout of Misha Cirkunov last weekend says something about the buzz Walker has created. Three straight sub-two-minute knockouts will do that for a man’s reputation.

Walker’s not going to knock everyone out fast forever, though, and we saw just last year with Francis Ngannou what happens when a KO artist gets pushed a bit too fast. So let’s hope the UFC resists the temptation to rush Walker in a thin division. WME should exhibit a little more of the Israel Adesanya-type build -- incrementally against tougher competition each time out -- and less of the Yair Rodriguez approach, where he’s just now starting to get back on track after getting mauled by Frankie Edgar. With more of the former and less of the latter, who knows? Maybe one day we’ll get a chance to see if your instinct is correct.

Robbie Lawler-Ben Askren rematch?

@squallyboi: Should Robbie get his rematch?

You know, I can see both sides of this one. If you’re Robbie Lawler, and you were on the wrong end of a split-second decision in which the ref errs a bit too much on the side of fighter safety based on the visual information presented him (the odd angle and Lawler’s arm dropping), sure, of course you want that fight back. If you’re UFC president Dana White and you had a hot fight come to a controversial finish, the rematch sells itself.

If you’re Ben Askren, though? You already waded through Lawler at his most vicious and live to tell about it. That slam administered by Lawler was an all-time classic, like Matt Hughes taking Frank Trigg for a ride and Daniel Cormier sending Dan Henderson flying. Askren hit the mat from the slam and then had Lawler on him like an angry piranha. Askren survived that, got back into the fight, and if the ref was quick on the draw with the stoppage, hey, ain’t his fault.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the rematch myself. Askren might have other plans. And given the glee with which he prods White at every conceivable turn, the attempts to steer Askren into his next fight could be as entertaining as the Lawler fight itself was while it lasted.

Jones’ troubles behind him?

@_michaelshanson: True or False: Besides the in-Octagon controversies (e.g. eye-pokes, inadvertently kneeing downed opponents), we’ve seen the last of Jon Jones’ out-of-Octagon controversies.

Maybe? For all the heat the UFC light heavyweight champion has brought for testing-related issues in recent years, Jones has low-key kept himself out of legal trouble for awhile now. That would seem to indicate he’s making better choices with what he does in his spare time and the sort of people he’s surrounding himself with outside of work.

Maybe we can draw a line between this, and his desire to stay a busy and active champion now that he’s back in action, and the fact that, while we can argue until we’re blue in the face about picograms, he’s been vigorously tested and apparently nothing new has come up, and say that he’s finally getting it, and the most controversial thing that will happen with him is a situation like the knee against Anthony Smith. We went through a whole fight week at UFC 235, after all.

But then, one too many people have been burned one too many times pronouncing Jones as having learned his lesson, grown up, etc. So rather than answer true or false to your question, I’ll simply note that Jones does indeed appear to be off to a good start, and we’ll see where things go from here.

The Gracies

@TannerRuss2: Who’s the best of the Gracies?

I mean, if Royce fell flat on his face at UFC 1, the event could very well have been a one-and-done ‘90s oddity, mentioned in passing with pop culture curiosities like the Macarena or Ren and Stimpy. (You can picture some D-list celeb on “I love the ‘90s” saying something like “remember that time they were going to try to prove jiu-jitsu was unbeatable and that one jiu-jitsu guy got knocked out by the boxer wearing one glove? What was that thing called?”) Maybe Kron Gracie will go on to become a champion, but without Royce (and Rorion pulling the strings backstage), we don’t get here. Never knock the original.

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