Conor McGregor has a pretty stern test ahead of him, but his coach is already looking ahead to potential future challenges.
On Tuesday UFC officials formally announced UFC 197 and a headliner between featherweight champion McGregor (19-2 MMA, 7-0 UFC) and lightweight titleholder Rafael dos Anjos (25-7 MMA, 14-5 UFC) – with dos Anjos 155-pound title on the line.
McGregor has already unleashed some serious trash-talk ahead of their pay-per-view event, which takes place March 5 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena. And if all goes to plan, he could soon hold two belts – the first to do so simultaneously in UFC history – before a summer return against the featherweight division’s top contender, Frankie Edgar (20-4-1 MMA, 14-4-1 UFC), who was hoping he’d get the next shot at McGregor.
As the featherweight champ’s head coach, John Kavanagh, wrote for the42.ie:
The elephant in the room in this situation, of course, has been Frankie Edgar. If Conor’s next fight was announced as being against Frankie, there would be a lot of complaints about him cutting too much weight and being too big for the rest of the 145lbs guys. People would also claim that he was running from Rafael dos Anjos.
Instead, they’ll say he should be staying at featherweight and that he’s afraid of Frankie. But as I’ve said many times before, it’s great that questions are being asked because answering them is what sport is all about. The day there are no more questions being asked of you is the day you’re no longer relevant.
No matter who Conor’s next opponent was going to be, people would complain. There’s no getting away from that. There are boxes to be ticked and, by the time Conor retires, he’ll have addressed them all. But they can’t all be done at the drop of a hat. We can only take it one at a time. Rafael dos Anjos is next. After that, maybe Frankie Edgar will get his chance at UFC 200 on 9 July. We’ll see.
And after that? Don’t count out a potential bid for a third UFC belt:
I think people will be surprised too when they see him standing beside these guys and they realise that even at lightweight, Conor is a pretty big guy.
And maybe the pursuit of belts won’t stop there either. I’ve said from the beginning that welterweight may not be out of the question. One of Conor’s main sparring partners, Gunnar Nelson, is a welterweight, so Conor is very used to that feel. I would not be at all surprised if we’re preparing to go for a third belt a year from now.