Conor McGregor is back, unfortunately for the UFC just not in the capacity they require. The divisive Irishman had his most powerful weapon returned to his grasp – a UFC mic – as he and Nate Diaz held court to discuss their highly-anticipated rematch at UFC 202.
There they where, the promotion’s two biggest assets, inside the stylish new T-Mobile Arena but instead of a referee, it was UFC president Dana White who stood between them. You get the impression that after Jon Jones sent shockwaves throughout the MMA world with his failed drugs test, White is feeling a sense of remorse.
McGregor and Diaz were initially slated to headline UFC 200 but the clash was scraped because of the Irishman’s reluctance to fulfill his media obligations.
Now, the headliner is Miesha Tate’s first defence of the bantamweight title against Amanda Nunes.
And with the utmost respect, if it was proposed a year ago UFC 200 would be headlined by a women’s fight not featuring Ronda Rousey, it would’ve been deemed pure fantasy. But, perhaps unexpectedly, McGregor was in no bragging mood.
“I could sit up here and say ‘well, well, well,’ but you know, I am a successful human being, and successful human beings do not celebrate in the adversity or misfortune of others,” he said of Jones’ positive PED test. “I wish Jon well, I wish everyone backstage well. I know they’re running around like headless chickens trying to get everything together, but all I missed was a press conference.
Dan Henderson wanted the fight, as did Alexander Gustafsson and Gegard Mousasi. Then a spider crept into the mix.
Anderson Silva has replaced Jon Jones in a three-round non-title fight at UFC 200 to ensure light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier remains on the historic card. It has been a rollercoaster ride for “DC” after his main event rematch with Jones was scrapped following the interim title holder’s failed drugs test.
From the biggest bout of his life, to no fight at all to now facing one of the greatest fighters of all time, the last few days have been a real test of Cormier’s mental fortitude.
But the 205lbs champ says he is just happy to retain his place on the blockbuster card – albeit now third on the bill.
“I am honored to share the Octagon with the one of the greatest fighters of all time,” Cormier said in a statement to MMA Fighting.
“This is a very tough fight for me, and I have to fight smart and to do my best in order to win this fight. Thank you Anderson for stepping up, and thanks to Dana White and the UFC for making this happen. Now let’s go do this.”
The 41-year-old Silva, who is coming off a loss to the current 185lbs champion Michael Bisping in February, is taking the fight on only two days notice. He’s also going into the bout having just had his gallbladder removed in May.
Eddie Alvarez can shed “Underground” from his nickname – he is just “The King” now. The Philadelphia native blitzed Rafael dos Anjos in the first round to become the new lightweight champion in the main event of UFC Fight Night 90.
And it is a victory which arguably cements the 32-year-old’s legacy as the greatest lightweight mixed martial arts fighter of all time.
Alvarez has now defeated the last WEC (Anthony Pettis) and Strikeforce (Gilbert Melendez) champions. He’s also beaten the reigning Bellator champ (Michael Chandler), has held that belt himself and boasts a win over former DREAM king Shinya Aoki.
It has been some run for the “Underground King” and he bookended it in stunning fashion. The early stages of the opening stanza was played out at a lightning pace, Dos Anjos applying his suffocating style to press Alvarez against the cage.
But then the challenger uncorked a monstrous straight right which wobbled Dos Anjos and although the Brazilian briefly staggered to safety, Alvarez was not to be denied.
He pursued the champ, who somehow remained upright, and forced the stoppage with smart but savage striking to end Dos Anjos’ five-fight win streak. With his legendary status secured, Alvarez now has his eyes on the money fight.
“I would ask (UFC president) Dana White, ‘Please give me an easier fight like Conor McGregor,’” he said. “I deserve that. I’ve been fighting the best guys, so I would like a gimme fight.”
At one stage, that fight was Dos Anjos’. He was originally slanted to defend the title against McGregor in March but was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury. Now, given his box-office weakness, a rematch looks improbable and a massive McGregor payday impossible. For Alvarez, though, the possibilities are endless.
In the co-main event, Derrick Lewis gutted out a split decision win over Roy Nelson. The hulking heavyweights clashed in the first round with Lewis landing a succession of knees, but for the large part Nelson frustrated with a gritty grappling game.
The second stanza followed a similar pattern and in the third, a swinging haymaker, which somehow failed to fell Nelson, was enough to edge the decision in Lewis’ favour.