Sunday 25 February 2018

Next contender already waiting in the wings for victor of Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo title fight

Frankie Edgar knocked out Chad Mendes
Frankie Edgar knocked out Chad Mendes

Tom Rooney

Last night at The Ultimate Fighter 22 finale in Las Vegas, Frankie Edgar solidified his claim as the next in line for a shot at the featherweight title with a stunning first round knockout of Chad Mendes.

In the second of three events the UFC are staging on consecutive evenings this week, Edgar sent a clear message to Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor by separating Mendes from his senses with a perfectly-placed left hook at 2.28 of the opening stanza.

The former lightweight champion has now won five of his last six bouts, with his most recent loss coming at the hands of Aldo in their 2013 title fight at UFC 156.

The New Jersey native has been campaigning for another crack at the Brazilian or, indeed, McGregor, throughout the year and it seems as though his latest performance has convinced UFC president Dana White that he’s ready.

“When Frankie came downstairs I said, ‘Nobody can deny you now. Not me, not nobody,'” White said following the showcase at the Cosmopolitan. “Everybody believes they’re ready for the title shot and they deserve it, and Frankie’s one of those guys.

“Nobody can deny Frankie anymore. He looked amazing tonight, and he’ll get whatever he wants. He put the stamp on it tonight. I bet he has people buzzing right now. People are interested. People want it.”

However, White has reneged on such promises before and the status quo atop the featherweight division is more complicated than ever.

If McGregor were to beat Aldo at UFC 194 tonight, the former would likely be given an immediate rematch if he so wishes. Aldo is the only man to wear the 145lbs strap and has done so since 2010.

Furthermore, McGregor has consistently proclaimed his desire to move up to lightweight as the cut he must endure to make featherweight is seriously taxing and it would seem no longer sustainable.

McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh said earlier in the week that Edgar would have do something spectacular against Mendes to warrant a showdown with his pupil, should he be crowned champion, so perhaps it will now come to pass.

If Aldo were to emerge victorious, it seems probable the Dubliner would leave the division and Edgar may get his chance in the first half of 2016.

For Mendes, the immediate future looks relatively grim. He has lost three of his last four bouts, two of which were title fights with Aldo and McGregor. The Californian also had a failed championship tilt at Aldo in 2012.

Considering his compact frame, Mendes might now be best served moving down to bantamweight to revive his career.

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