Sunday 17 December 2017

'Conor still has a belt to a defend'- UFC president Dana White plotting McGregor's next move

Conor McGregor reacts following his loss against Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Conor McGregor reacts following his loss against Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Rooney

UFC president Dana White has given a clear indication that, after the shock submission loss to Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor’s next fight will be a defence of his featherweight title.

UFC 196 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will perhaps be best remembered for the two underdog victories at the top of the bill that sent the MMA universe into a dizzying tailspin.

In the co-main event, Miesha Tate not only won the women’s bantamweight title with her fifth round submission of Holly Holm, she also becomes the first woman to the beat the first woman to beat Ronda Rousey.

Holm usurped the previously undefeated Rousey in Melbourne last November and was expected to prevail against Tate. But the challenger had other ideas, and just as it looked that Holm would run out the clock and take a points decision, Tate pounced and choked her unconscious.

Then, with the exact same technique, Nate Diaz ended Conor McGregor’s seven fight winning streak in the UFC, and scuppered any plans the promotion may have had to pair the Dubliner in a super-fight with other champions.

Diaz was a late replacement for lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, who suffered a broken foot two weeks ago, and could well have taken McGregor’s place as the next in line to face the Brazilian.

McGregor is signed up to compete at UFC 200 on July 9, and it’s highly probable that he’ll defend his featherweight crown at the landmark event in the newly built T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Dana White certainly intimated as much when speaking to Megan Olivi last night, having been asked what’s next for some of the company’s fallen stars. Funnily enough, in the Fox Sports station above him, White was being signalled by featherweight No.1 contender Frankie Edgar. What’s more, there is also the small matter of Jose Aldo to consider.

  “This sport is so crazy. There were so many celebrities here tonight, and you know you have something amazing when people who’ve done it all and seen it all are standing around going ‘holy shit! What just happened?’

“It’s interesting. I don’t know. I’ve got to get back in the office on Monday and we’ll figure out what’s next. Conor still has a title to defend so, you know.”

White was effusive in his praise for both Diaz and McGregor, and lauded the Dubliner for launching an immediate full scale attack on his larger foe.

He also pointed out, like many others have in this morning's post mortem, that the additional extra mass on McGregor’s frame may have contributed to his downfall.

“He came out gun-slinging. First of all, Conor makes fighting so fun. To come out and fight a guy two weight classes ahead of you, who’s never been knocked unconscious, and come out and fight him the way he fought him, is fun. Nate Diaz is a fun kid, who stepped up, took the fight and tonight was incredible.

“The fight was so fun to watch. Conor jumped right in his guard and was grappling with him. But let me tell you what, when you’re fighting a bigger guy, plus Conor was carrying that extra weight and throwing bombs, trying to knock him out, it’s tiring.

“The stuff that Conor was throwing, the way he was throwing, he looked incredible and he even hurt Nate to the body. It was a fight, man. It was what it was. These two guys wanted to fight, and everybody saw a fight tonight,” he said.

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