It’s going to be Chad Mendes fighting Conor McGregor after all. The rib injury sustained by UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo apparently proved too much for the champ to fight with and so Mendes will now meet McGregor in the main event of UFC 189 for the interim featherweight title.
No offense to Chad but … sigh. It’s not his fault. Not even the UFC’s fault. If someone had said, “Hey, there’s a show headlined by Conor McGregor against Chad Mendes” you’d probably think, “Wow, that’s a really awesome fight.” But sometimes it’s not what you have but what you don’t have.
Which is a terrible way to go through life.
If you wake up in the morning, have a wife you love, kids who are great, a nice house, and a job you enjoy, it shouldn’t matter if Justin Verlander gets to play baseball for hundreds of millions of dollars and have sex with Kate Upton. His happiness shouldn’t ruin yours.
Jose Aldo fighting Conor McGregor was amazing on paper. It was the most anticipated fight of the year. The UFC did a world tour promoting the fight and the tour was more entertaining than some shows. Aldo hated McGregor. The greatest fighter who ever lived hated a man and wanted to beat the living shit out of him. And McGregor smiled and smirked the entire time, knowing he’d just made his grandchildren rich.
Chad Mendes vs Conor McGregor might only make Conor’s children rich – his grandkids might still need to find a job. I would say the dynamic is different – and it is – but it also easily could have been the same. Most of the build for UFC 189 was, “This crazy Irishman has become a folk hero to his countrymen and angered the quiet champion.” If it had always been Mendes much of the hype would have been the same.
But, dammit, no matter how pretty your wife is, this exists:
Mendes has had his chance to be champion. He’s had two chances to be champion. Now he will have had THREE chances. And if he beats McGregor on Saturday (a very real possibility) he’ll unify “his” title with Aldo’s meaning he will have four chances to become champion.
Aldo got injured. It happens. He’s been injured before but anyone who wants to give him grief should consider that since Aldo became champion in 2009 there have been thirty-one UFC or linear UFC champions. There has never been an interim champion at 145 lbs. He had defended his title 9 times, mostly with ease, and always at least once a year.
The UFC was backed into a corner: Saturday’s PPV was too big and Conor too important for “The Notorious One” to not fight and so a replacement was needed. Aldo will probably heal up soon and be ready in a few months. I’m sad. I wanted to see him and Conor on Saturday just from a selfish perspective. I wanted to see an insane atmosphere. And the drama that Aldo was injured only made it better. It increased the chances that McGregor would win. It increased the chances that people would complain and be outraged when the fight was over.
But if you’re Aldo, in five years, all anyone will remember is whether you won or lost. If you have to delay beating McGregor by a few months – for your legacy – it is worth it. And if things fall right, and McGregor beats Mendes … forget about it. The “unification” match with Aldo will be insane. Take all of the build up so far, all of the drama, all of the taunting, and now give McGregor a belt. Give him a reason to justifiably claim he’s the “rightful champion.”
As for Saturday? How it plays out? No idea. On paper, Mendes is a bad match-up for McGregor. He’s a bad match-up for most people because he’s really really good. An elite wrestler with power in his hands? That sucks. And the one area McGregor hasn’t been fully tested is his wrestling. Can he handle elite wrestling? A lot of guys have looked like superstars until they came face to face with a wrestler who just broke them with one take down after another.
Buuuuuut. Mendes gets less than a month to prepare. He gets about 10 days to mentally prepare. And all this for one of the absolute best – and McGregor is one of the best, make no mistake. Does that cancel out the wrestling? Is this the best chance McGregor has to take out an elite wrestler? Do writers sometimes write a bunch of rhetorical questions rather than do actual analysis? We shall see. What we do know is on Saturday it will be Chad Mendes vs Conor McGregor.
Still. Damn. It was almost Aldo. It was almost the dream. Probably like with your wife, I guess you can close your eyes and pretend…