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Will Conor McGregor be the UFC’s next top star?

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Tonight’s UFC 189 event will take place from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada as the highlight of the organization’s international fight week, which features a variety of events and adds an extra hype for the card, but it hasn’t been without its share of controversy. The current Featherweight champion, Jose Aldo was scheduled to defend his title against rising star, Conor McGregor, but the Brazilian sustained a rib injury, which derailed plans.

It’s a bizarre situation, as UFC doctors diagnosed  Aldo with bruised ribs and he was medical cleared to fight, but the champion’s own physician determined he had broken ribs, leading Aldo to cancel the bout. After the anticipated contest was scrapped,  there was some criticism toward Aldo, but he attempted to silence those detractors when he posted images of an X-ray of his rib online to show the extent of the injury. This would suggest that the UFC medical staff misdiagnosed Aldo, but the outspoken UFC President, Dana White responded and claims that the images Aldo provided were from an old injury, and the champion didn’t think he could make weight with bruised ribs so he decided not to fight.

Anyone that suggests that the UFC didn’t disclose the injury in an attempt to keep the fight on the card is extremely misguided and the UFC wouldn’t risk the liability for an injury. It’s certainly a murky situation for all involved, but the bottom line is, Aldo wasn’t going to fight so with less than two weeks before the pay-per-view, the UFC announced Chad Mendes as a replacement for an intern title fight.

Conor McGregor, who is 5-0 in the UFC, is being promoted as the promotion’s next top star and he seems to have the mics skill, as well as the ability in the cage to become extremely marketable. The charismatic Dublin native, is somewhat similar to retired middleweight Chael Sonnen, in terms of talking to hype a fight, but McGregor actually has the skills to live up to the hype.

With an overall record of 17-2, McGregor brings a dynamic style and excellent striking to the octagon, and in the process, generated a buzz for the Featherweight division that hasn’t been seen in the UFC. As a company, the UFC could definitely use another main stream star, as many of the top draws from years prior have retired or been tainted with a scandal. Jon Jones, who was thought to be the future of the sport a few years ago, was arrested on hit and run charges in April, which prompted the UFC to strip him of the Light Heavyweight title. He was also suspended indefinitely and some have speculated that he might not fight again.

Anderson Silva, who is considered the most dominant fighter in the history of the UFC, tested positive for steroids after a fight in January. Both Brock Lesnar and George St. Pierre retired a few years ago so obviously, the UFC is looking for the next main stream star. Outside of Ronda Rousey, who generates main stream publicity for the UFC? That’s not to say that the UFC doesn’t have a great roster because the talent is certainly there, but from a business prospective, the company needs another main stream draw for the box office.

Conor McGregor could be the next marketable star for the company, but the Aldo cancellation puts him in a tough spot because in some ways, he has nothing to gain if he wins, as he will still have to fight Aldo in a unification bout. Chad Mendes, who took the fight on short notice, essentially has nothing to lose because if he’s defeated, it’s the McGregor win many fans expected, but if he wins, he gets a rematch with Aldo. Mendes has a record of 17-2 with his only losses being the Aldo fights and he’s a tough test for McGregor, considering he has an extensive wrestling background, which is an area where Mcgregor hasn’t really been tested so far in his UFC career. Mendes is a legitimate threat to McGregor’s path to the title, but who wins at UFC 189?

In my opinion, the grappling aspect will be the main key and could determine the fight. While Mendes has powerful punches, McGregor has the striking advantage and could use it to finish the fight in the early rounds. However, if Mendes gets a take down, he could control the fight and use the cardio advantage to win a decision. I will pick Conor McGregor to get the win, but anything is possible so it should be an entertaining fight. This is definitely not an easy fight for McGregor, but if he’s victorious, it sets the stage for the Aldo fight, which translates to major, major for the UFC and the potential for their next main stream star.

-Jim LaMotta

@jimlamotta

image credit – @TheNotoriousMMA

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