The UFC featherweight division is in crisis. It seems odd saying that given the genuinely stacked nature, but it is true. And unfortunately it stems from the top.
The once bitter and gripping feud between the King, Prince and Joker has been blown to pieces. It was a glorious trilogy that could run – each fighter able to expose the weaknesses of another in a vicious title changing circle. Throw in a few exciting young prospects and you could have defined an era.
But the Prince has been popped, the King dethroned and the Joker a cash cow.
If McGregor does choose to fight Alvarez at UFC 205, he should be stripped of his title. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that titles mean something. They should represent your struggle and climb up the ladder until you are the pinnacle of your sport. Arguably, this is precisely what McGregor has done and has earned the right to cash in. A freight train of hype blasting through opponents like no other to scale that mountain top. But now he is taking away that chance for the others.
This will be the third time he has chosen to wilfully not defend his crown. A single time I will happily concede, allowing the division to define the number one contender. But having both an active Champion and Interim Champion? A mockery. The title belts are proving to be less about prestige and more about revenue.
The repercussions are being felt. Aldo, who has a history of selective activity, will no doubt wait for his second chance at McGregor. Despite the Irishman’s protestations, there is an appetite for a rematch. The manner of victory leaves a lot to be answered – was it a fluke? Can his technique match up to the purest all round fighter in the history of the division? We might never know.
And beyond this you only have to turn to Holloway. A nine fight streak – but a list of names that fall comfortably outside top contenders. What other division could you piece together such a run and not be in the title frame? He has matured in front of us yet utterly fails to get recognition and struggles to get top notch opposition.
Perhaps he is lucky Pettis has slunk down a division. He can provide a true test – and a fan blessed fight – given his previous title holding credentials. Here is a get out clause the UFC should snap up and call the number one contendership bout in order to save some respect.
Sadly, the only prospect of resolution lies within the problem. McGregor. Perhaps a situation whereby he takes the Alvarez fight – allowing him to potentially create history and dual title wield – but then is stripped in the intervening timeframe before Aldo next graces the octagon. Thereby you appease your number one asset, and restore a modicum of repute to the sport.