It’s hard to deny Conor McGregor’s wishes because of how he’s taken the sport of MMA to another level. But to decline the winner of the Rory MacDonald-Stephen Thompson match-up the next welterweight title shot just to satisfy Mystic Mac’s desires would be perhaps the greatest heist of all-time.
Rory MacDonald-Stephen Thompson as main event of UFC Fight Night 89 is as good as it gets. Having a division’s #1 and #2 ranked contenders squaring off against each other is a treat all by itself. Seeing two exciting high level fighters go head to head makes it a must see fight.
MacDonald is coming off a loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 last July 2015. But it wasn’t just a simple loss. It was one that came in what was perhaps the greatest welterweight title bout of all-time. We saw them go back and forth for four rounds before The Ruthless One busted Rory’s nose and eventually forced the TKO. It was such a war that this was how both fighters looked after the fight:
Props to the two warriors for tons of sportsmanship and mutual respect with this pose.
Rory MacDonald is 18-3 with 7 KOs and 6 submissions. Since losing to Carlos Condit at UFC 115, only Robbie Lawler has been able to beat him and Robbie’s done that twice, both times denying MacDonald the ultimate prize. (After beating Rory at UFC 167, Lawler got the first Hendricks title shot) He’s ranked #1 in the 170 pound division and if he beats #2 Stephen Thompson, there’s no question he should get the next shot at Robbie’s belt.
Stephen Thompson meanwhile, also has the right to claim that title shot. His virtuoso performance at UFC Fight Night 82 was one for the ages:
After that career-defining victory over former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks last month, Thompson rose to #2 in the UFC’s 170 pound rankings. And rightfully so, Wonder Boy did a wonderful job of destroying the man who held the title before Lawler took it from him. After the fight, Thompson asked for a title shot:
“Defeating Johny Hendricks, he’s a tough guy, no. 2-ranked guy, former welterweight champion. I’m asking for the title, man. I know there’s a lot of guys in line, but I think after that performance, I deserve it.”
There are indeed a lot of guys in line. One is Carlos Condit, who took Robbie Lawler to another five round war at UFC 195:
Lawler beat Condit by the thinnest of margins which some even consider controversial. Regardless of who won, the fans deserve and encore more than Condit deserves a rematch. Then there is #3 ranked Tyron Woodley whose fight with Johny Hendricks at UFC 192 was aborted because of Hendricks’ weight cut issues. Woodley has won four of his last five bouts, all against Top 10 welterweights ( at the time of their bout). Then there is Demain Maia, the BJJ master who’s won four in a row, including 3-0 in 2015.
But then Rory MacDonald-Stephen Thompson is something else. Not only is it one of the best match-ups that could be made in the 170 pound division, it’s also one that links former longtime champion Georges St. Pierre. Macdonald was known as GSP’s protege while Thompson was his former sparring partner. How that adds to their storyline isn’t important though, because this one’s a bout that needs no hype and trash talk.
But then even before this bout was made, a potential road block already presented itself in the person of Conor McGregor. The 145 pound champion, who’s making a leap to 170 on Saturday night, has declared that challenging Robbie Lawler at UFC 200 is an “option” if he beats Nate Diaz. That absurd idea was corroborated by Dana White, who said last Thursday:
“I’m open to whatever he’s considering doing. If he wants to fight at 170 and he wants to fight Robbie Lawler, Conor is tough to deny these days.”
Maybe if Nate Diaz beats him, Conor will shut his pie hole and go back to 145. But if he wins, and the odds are saying he will, will Dana White turn the UFC into a circus? Look, with all due respect to Conor McGregor, he’s done what he’s done for the game as a whole and that’s bigger than what guys like MacDonald, Thompson, Woodley, Condit and Maia have. But aside from being the ambassador, he hasn’t done anything to earn a welterweight title shot, just as he didn’t have any right to challenge Rafael Dos Anjos immediately after beating Jose Aldo.
Dana White, do what is right for the sport even just once. The next welterweight title shot should go to the Rory MacDonald-Stephen Thompson winner, regardless of whether Mouthful Mac wins or not on Saturday.