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Sport For the first time in a long time, the UFC doesn't need Conor McGregor

07:04  13 july  2018
07:04  13 july  2018 Source:   sportingnews.com

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The buzz of a future Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar fight has silenced the immediate need to bring Conor McGregor back to the UFC .

The buzz of a future Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar fight has silenced the immediate need to bring Conor McGregor back to the UFC .

Brock Lesnar standing in front of a crowd© Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited For the first time in a long time, the UFC doesn’t need Conor McGregor.

Don’t get us wrong, it would be nice to have the Irishman in competition, but the UFC is finally in a position where they aren’t hamstrung by McGregor’s absence due to the incredible buzz caused by Brock Lesnar’s appearance after Daniel Cormier defeated Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 226.

The prospect of Daniel Cormier facing Brock Lesnar in a future event rings nothing but dollar signs for the UFC. More importantly, it drowned out the calls for a Conor McGregor return to the Octagon.

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Cancelled title fights in the UFC featherweight division. — UFC 189: Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor (Aldo withdrew, replaced by Chad Mendes). If there was a time that the UFC would throw the farm at McGregor , it would have been now.

The buzz of a future Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar fight has silenced the immediate need to bring Conor McGregor back to the UFC .

Prior to the post-fight scene inside of the Octagon that played out like an episode of WWE’s Monday Night RAW, McGregor and his absence remained the biggest story in the UFC. The void left by Mystic Mac had not only affected public interest in the UFC, but it also revealed just how unstable the company was without the boisterous 29-year-old Irishman.

Take a look at the UFC featherweight and lightweight title fights that have either been altered or cancelled due to injury since 2015:

CANCELLED TITLE FIGHTS IN THE UFC FEATHERWEIGHT DIVISION

— UFC 189: Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor (Aldo withdrew, replaced by Chad Mendes)

— UFC 218: Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar (Edgar withdrew, replaced by Aldo)

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— UFC 222: Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar (Holloway withdrew, replaced by Brian Ortega)

— UFC 226: Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega (Holloway withdrew, fight cancelled)

CANCELLED TITLE FIGHTS IN THE UFC LIGHTWEIGHT DIVISION

— UFC 196: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Conor McGregor (dos Anjos withdrew, replaced by Nate Diaz)

— UFC 209: Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (Nurmagomedov withdrew, fight cancelled)

— UFC 223: Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (Ferguson withdrew, Holloway withdrew, replaced by Al Iaquinta)

There has been only one undisputed featherweight title fight that went as originally scheduled (UFC 212) and not a single undisputed lightweight title bout that has taken place in McGregor’s absence. If nothing else, McGregor provided stability to not one, but two divisions. He was incredibly reliable and never pulled out of a fight. Couple that with his star power and you have a fighter sorely missed by the biggest MMA promotion on the planet.

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After Holloway was forced out of action at UFC 226, it was obvious that McGregor was needed. However, due to the $US99 million earned in his August 2017 boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, the cost for the UFC to get him back in the Octagon would be certain to exceed his highest payday ($3.59 million). It would be obscene to believe that McGregor would return for anything less than a quarter of what he earned against Mayweather. He held all the cards and the UFC was becoming increasingly desperate. Overall interest in the company and pay-per-view buys were way down in 2018, with UFC 224: Nunes vs. Pennington being a low point with a paltry 85,000 buys.

If there was a time that the UFC would throw the farm at McGregor, it would have been now.

But then the magic happened at UFC 226.

What was billed as a superfight between heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier drew some significant interest as the UFC sought a marquee fight that could crack into the mainstream. Even without Holloway-Ortega, UFC 226 delivered with exceptional fights up until the co-main event. In a shocking turn of events, the expected fireworks between heavyweights Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis ended up being one of the worst heavyweight fights in the history of the company. The UFC desperately needed Miocic-Cormier to deliver.

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It did, both in and out of the Octagon.

Almost a year to the day that Cormier cried in the Octagon after losing to Jon Jones, the 39-year-old knocked out the man recognised as the greatest heavyweight in the history of the UFC with a short right hand in the first round and became the second fighter in UFC history to hold world titles simultaneously in two weight classes.

Although the moment itself was breathtaking, the real gold was in what took place afterward.

The looming presence of Brock Lesnar cageside set Twitter ablaze with speculation regarding the current WWE Universal Champion. There were rumours of Lesnar returning to the UFC running rampant on social media for several months. However, there was also the issue of Lesnar needing to re-enter USADA’s testing pool and serve out the remainder of his suspension that stemmed from a pair of failed drug tests before and after his victory over Mark Hunt at UFC 200.

Lesnar hadn’t been seen on WWE television since retaining his universal title at The Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia on April 27. Although Lesnar signed an extension with the WWE, there was always the prospect of the 40-year-old making a return to the mixed martial arts promotion where he once reigned as the UFC heavyweight champion.

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Although Lesnar’s recent tenure was mired in controversy, it’s no secret that the hulking wrestler who resides in Saskatchewan, Canada was a crossover superstar for the company before there was a Ronda Rousey or a Conor McGregor. UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin is the sixth best-selling PPV of all time with 1.16 million buys while UFC 100 — where Lesnar stopped Frank Mir in the main event — is the third biggest at 1.3 million buys. The other four spots in the top six are occupied by — who else? — Conor McGregor.

So, when Cormier called out Lesnar during his post-fight interview, social media lit up in anticipation. Once Lesnar entered the Octagon and shoved Cormier, no matter how “scripted” it felt, there was a buzz unlike any other since McGregor’s last fight. Cormier, a self-proclaimed diehard pro wrestling fan, played along with Lesnar as the two delivered the UFC’s finest moment of sports entertainment to date. It didn’t matter that Lesnar hadn’t done anything to deserve a world title fight. All that mattered was one of the biggest draws in UFC history was challenging the man who just made history in Daniel Cormier.

For once, something else felt bigger and more important than Conor McGregor.

During the UFC 226 post fight press conference, UFC president Dana White’s demeanour seemed to acknowledge that he also was aware of the significance of a prospective Cormier-Lesnar showdown.

“I’m not even thinking about Conor — I’m serious,” White said. Clearly not pressed to discuss McGregor, White gushed over Cormier’s accomplishments and entertained questions regarding Lesnar’s status.

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“We’re definitely going to make that fight,” White said about Cormier-Lesnar. Why wouldn’t he? The hurdles of USADA protocol are trivial compared to the money this fight will likely draw. Not to mention that there is the looming prospect of cross promotion with the WWE in the build up to the fight. Cormier made it clear that he’s certainly interested in appearing on WWE programming to help build the fight.

More dollar signs.

“Brock Lesnar is the champion of the WWE,” said Cormier. “When he comes over here, there’s no script, no pulling on the punches. He can be big and bad and tough right now, but when that cage door closes, he’s going to answer for his words, and he’s definitely going to answer for that shove.”

Of course, there's the always looming third fight with Jon Jones. But Cormier is 39 and there's really no telling when or if Jon Jones will fight again. With a hard deadline of March 20, 2019 set for his retirement (his 40th birthday), Cormier is only interested in big-money fights. Brock Lesnar is a big-money fight. Although he has lost twice to Jon Jones, Cormier has done everything right in his career. He deserves this payday more than just about anybody else on the roster. He's made history, entered himself in the conversation as the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time and has become the feel-good story of combat sports. All that is left is the hefty payday. He'll get that and the MMA universe will give the Cormier-Lesnar fight their full undivided attention.

Conor McGregor is still missed. But for once, he isn't needed

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