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Conor McGregor’s place in history of MMA

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Nothing to see here, folks … nothing besides the aftermath of one of the most historic evenings in the history of mixed martial arts, that is. Let’s get right into the questions.

Conor McGregor’s legacy

@passionatepatk: Now that Conor has two belts at the same what does that mean historically? What if he retired today? Too soon to discuss?

If Conor McGregor retired right now, he’d do so as a legend of the sport and an all-time great.

Start with the most obvious fact: Exactly 23 years to the day elapsed between the formation of the UFC and one fighter holding two championships at the same time, a feat McGregor accomplished by defeating Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight belt at UFC 205.

When McGregor immediately announced his assault on 155 after winning the featherweight belt last December at UFC 194, it was seven years since anyone else had even tried to turn the trick. And the last one to do it, B.J. Penn, lost so badly in going up to meet Georges St-Pierre that the mere attempt was chalked up to “BJ being BJ” and the two-title idea pretty much discarded for years. Only one other fighter, Dan Henderson, has held what’s recognized as a major world title when he held two belts in PRIDE, and the company went under before he got to defend either.

So, in and of itself, McGregor’s accomplishments are pretty much cause for immediate induction into the UFC Hall of Fame.

But then you take it to another level and examine the route he took in 2016, and find it’s truly remarkable. McGregor accepted Nate Diaz as a substitute on 11 days’ notice back in March when then-lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos broke his foot. McGregor would have been forgiven for sitting out and waiting on RDA.

He lost to Diaz. Let’s do a thought exercise: What if Ronda Rousey demanded to fight Holly Holm again as soon as reasonably possible after UFC 193, then went out and regained the title? Her star would be shining brighter than ever. Instead, she disappeared for an entire year. McGregor demanded an immediate rematch with Diaz and avenged his loss. UFC 202 is the biggest-money fight in UFC history and Rousey’s return, while still big, isn’t resonating like her fights used to.

And that was before McGregor went out and won two titles at once. Every step along the way, he was faced with situations, from fight fallouts to losses and so on, for which no one would have blamed him had he made the safe choice. His accomplishments at this point, his ability to will what he wants into reality, his resilience in bouncing back exactly the way a fans want to see a fighter rebound from a loss, and even his ability to leverage his power with his promoter like no one before him, have put him on a plateau no one else has reached, not Rousey, not Georges St-Pierre, not Anderson Silva.

From here? If McGregor were somehow to stumble, and if he never has another year quite like 2016, he’s still gone on an unmatched run in the history of the sport. He’s one of the all-time greats.

But if he continues this run for a couple more years? If he keeps knocking off one challenger after another, keeps taking on opponents who look like bad style matchups on paper and throwing them off their gameplans, keeps building his fights bigger and bigger? Then yes, he could end up being regarded as the greatest MMA fighter of all-time when it’s all said and done.

He’s not there yet, mind you, and has a way to go. But even two years ago, who besides McGregor himself and his most wide-eyed fans would have believed he’d get this far?

What’s next for Aldo?

@NatrajManUnited: Do you really think Aldo as a legit claim at wanting a title shot?  Hard to sell a rematch when you get KOd in 13 seconds.

Sure, Aldo has a legit claim. That 13-second knockout loss to McGregor was Aldo’s only defeat in a decade. Any fighter can get clipped. And Aldo went out in his next fight and schooled Frankie Edgar.

However … we don’t live in a world in which what goes down in the Octagon is the only thing that matters, and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty obvious Aldo has been playing checkers the past few months while McGregor plays chess.

Imagine an alternate world in which Aldo responded to being passed over for a fight with McGregor by going on an all-out PR blitz, maybe one in which he even vowed to follow McGregor up to 155 if needed in order to get the fight. What if Aldo made the rounds in the media all last week to remind everyone that he was there, holding an interim belt, and demanding to fight Conor? That would have helped build momentum for a rematch.

Instead, Aldo came off like he was taking his ball and was going home, and now McGregor has more options than ever. If McGregor relinquishes the 145-pound belt and Aldo is promoted to full champion, that only serves to remind people that Aldo lost in such a one-sided manner to a guy who got rid of the belt. Aldo’s an all-time great inside the cage, but outside, it’s been one poorly thought out move after another.

Miesha Tate’s legacy

@hunt5588: Now that she has retired, where does Meisha Tate rank all time in WMMA?

I went into this in more depth for a piece I wrote for Yahoo Sports, but to get to the heart of it: Miesha Tate is one of the most IMPORTANT fighters in women’s MMA history.

Strikeforce gets its deserved credit for giving women an opportunity to compete when the UFC didn’t. But it’s also worth noting that after Gina Carano retired, there was a prolonged stretch in which women’s fights were mostly marginalized on Strikeforce Challengers cards. Tate’s rise helped put WMMA back on the right track within Strikeforce and put it back on the bigger stage, and her rivalry with Rondy Rousey helped get the sport over the top.

But that’s only half the story. The other half is Miesha’s resilience. Once exposed to the mainstream, the fans caught on pretty fast that Tate was a tough as anyone who set foot into the cage, regardless of gender. Her fights won over skeptics and created new fans. Win or lose, if Miesha was on the card, fans got their money’s worth.

Then in March, she went out and won the UFC title which had eluded her, which means, on top of everything else on her resume, she’ll likely go into the record book with Rousey as the only women to hold both UFC and Strikeforce belts (assuming the UFC never gets around to making a 145-pound title during Cris Cyborg’s career).

To sum up: Miesha Tate was a tenacious fighter in victory and defeat; she played in IMPORTANT role in helping a sport grow, and she’s a two-time world champion. That’s one hell of a legacy to leave behind.

Scheduling difficulties

@MMA_and_Beer: Considering UFC blew its proverbial load booking its top stars towards the end of 2016, who will headline 208, 209, 210?

That’s a bit of a rough way to put it, but sure, let’s go through with this exercise. McGregor’s sitting out awhile, which ices 145 and 155. Tyron Woodley and Joanna Jedrzejczyk both just fought, as well. Aldo has a 145 interim belt, but his situation is unresolved. Demetrious Johnson is going to steamroll the TUF winner in December. Daniel Cormier fights in a few weeks. UFC 207 features Ronda Rousey; Dominick Cruz vs. Cody Garbrandt, and the heavyweight contenders fight between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum.

That doesn’t leave us with many championship options in the opening months of 2017. Michael Bisping’s knee is going to keep hi out of what would seem a natural date in his adopted hometown of Anaheim with Yoel Romero at UFC 208 and, he’s angling for a spring return. Stipe Miocic hasn’t fought since September, and they could do a Junior dos Santos rematch, but that would make the bout between Velasquez and Werdum ring hollow. Maybe a Woodley-Thompson rematch could go by UFC 210, given both seemed to come out of the fight okay. Maybe someone fighting over the next few weeks can turn back around on short notice.

That’s a whole lot of maybes and not too many main event options. If I was someone like Nick Diaz or Georges St-Pierre, I’d keep an eye peeled for phone calls calls from the 702.

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