The recently concluded UFC 218 main card in Detroit was certainly one for the ages, creating all manner of new talking points and injecting fresh excitement into multiple weight divisions.
From Jose Aldo’s potentially career-changing defeat to an imperious Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez’s war-of-attrition victory over Justin Gaethje and Francis Ngannou’s statement-making KO of Alistair Overeem, fans were rewarded with a card that lived up to and even exceeded expectations.
Add to this the co-Fight of the Night battle between Yancy Medeiros and Alex Oliveira and you will be hard pushed to find a more bombastic event than the one that just went down in Michigan.
With Alvarez, Holloway and Ngannou increasing their stock on Saturday night and questions over just what featherweight legend Aldo will do next following his third defeat in his last four contests, outside of the octagon a certain Conor McGregor managed to grab some headlines for himself over the weekend.
In a move that sits somewhat ajar to some of his previously magnanimous fight-related offerings, the absent lightweight champion took a swipe at Holloway following the Hawaiian’s repeat destruction of Aldo.
I miss those sunglasses. pic.twitter.com/0fa7U9dM4Y
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) December 3, 2017
Rather than commend his former opponent for a job well done, McGregor seems to be promoting himself on the back of Holloway’s victory.
Yes, the current featherweight champion last lost to McGregor back in mid-2013 and since becoming champion, talks of a rematch, potentially even at 155 lb, have been doing the rounds.
However, with Holloway holding dominion over the featherweight ranks and with McGregor still showing no signs of a return to the octagon following his lucrative boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather in August, people are wondering if the Irishman will return at all.
Following the events of UFC 218, you might even be forgiven for musing that the UFC no longer needs its pay-per-view king.
Excitement in the heavyweight ranks is now at a level not seen in quite some time. The heavy hands of Ngannou have seen him blaze a direct trail through the ranks and he is now banging on the door of champion Stipe Miocic.
When these two face off, as they surely will in 2018, interest and hype for the match-up will rival the early days of Brock Lesnar.
Eddie Alvarez has also re-established himself as a force in the lightweight division. His gutsy and gritty victory over Gaethje buries his one-sided defeat to McGregor at UFC 205 another layer deeper.
Next up for the man from Philadelphia is a likely rematch with Dustin Poirier. When they last faced off, the contest was dramatically stopped following an accidental/illegal knee by Alvarez to Poirier when he was on the ground.
Poirier has already called out the former lightweight champion and fans won’t be one bit surprised if these two catch up in the octagon again next year to finish what they started.
Then there is Jose Aldo. Since his stunning defeat to McGregor back in November of 2015, the Brazilian master has struggled badly. Though he reclaimed the vacant title against Frankie Edgar after it was stripped from/vacated by the Irishman, he has now suffered two brutal defeats at the hands of Holloway and a trilogy is not likely to take place anytime soon, given the marked one-sidedness of those contests.
So what for the now 31-year-old? While the world awaits word of his next move, it is likely going to be one of two things – retirement or a jump up to lightweight.
The weight cut for UFC 218 appeared to hit Aldo hard as he emerged in a torrid state for the pre-fight weigh-in last week. With the same trials awaiting any new featherweight battle, perhaps he will choose to move up to 155 lb to take on new challenges.
The potential jump to lightweight would open the door for Aldo to showcase his still formidable skills against a whole new roster. Who knows, he may even find himself in contention for another title.
So with any number of new and exciting opportunities awaiting those in the weight divisions that McGregor has ruled, plus with the heavyweight ranks on notice that there is a man on a mission in the form of Francis Ngannou, fans might well wonder if there is a desire to see Conor McGregor return to the octagon at all.
Following his massive payday from his clash with Mayweather, the man from Crumlin certainly has no need to come back. He simply could not dream to earn anything like the $100 million-plus he reportedly pocketed in August if he pulls on the 4 ounce gloves.
Therefore, any return would have to be one born out a desire to further build on his legacy and to prove he is indeed the king.
But what about Dana White and the UFC? With the seismic events of UFC 218 still reverberating around the MMA world, excitement is sky high for the promotion and what happens next.
It is fair to say that the longer McGregor stays away, the easier it is for the UFC to move on without him. With so many big names now staking claims for the spotlight, the Irishman’s relevance will eventually diminish due to his absence.
That is not to say, however, that if or when he does return, it won’t be a massively hyped media circus. Seeing McGregor stepping back into the octagon will likely be one of the biggest events in the company’s history. He still has that star power, that ability to draw people in. He is still Dana White’s golden goose.
All he needs now is to come back and start laying those eggs once more.