To get an idea of how anticipated the original fight was, let’s go back to this past January in Boston. McGregor stepped into the octagon to face off against Denis Siver at UFC Fight Night 59 after weeks of trash talking. McGregor flipped off Siver as they met face to face and once the fight started, McGregor was unstoppable. He moved around the cage showing great poise and patiently waiting for his moment to strike. He pummeled and bloodied Siver for two straight rounds, taking a dominant TKO victory. Sitting in the front row watching the destruction of Siver was UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. After the victory, McGregor climbed over the cage and was held back by security as he attempted to confront Aldo, making a clear statement that he wanted the next shot at the title.
McGregor/Siver ended up being the most watched MMA bout so far this year, bringing in 3.162 million viewers across the country on Fox Sports 1. McGregor proved that he was a must see attraction and mere days after viewership news broke, Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor was set for July 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight was expected to sell out and generate a $7 million live gate along with PPV buys ranging from 700,000 to 1,000,000, making it one of the biggest fights financially in UFC history. The UFC even launched a huge media tour in preparation of the fight, where they held press conferences all over the world including stops in both men’s home countries of Brazil and Ireland. McGregor used the tour as a way to play mind games with Aldo, relentlessly trash talking him and at one point, stealing Aldo’s championship and holding the belt up claiming it was rightfully his.
The UFC spent a good amount of money hyping the fight, expecting huge financial gains in return when the fight actually took place. Now, the company will have to scramble to get people just as interested in Mendes vs. McGregor as they did in the original fight. McGregor has proven to be the first major draw in the Featherweight Division and while Mendes is an excellent fighter, he doesn’t nearly have the star power or name recognition as a Jose Aldo to get people excited over the prospects of the new fight.
Despite the likely loss of substantial revenue and fan interest in the show, this could be the best possible situation for McGregor. One of the main criticisms of McGregor is his lack of major victories, as many feel that McGregor talked his way into a title shot instead of earning it. McGregor has a professional record of 17-2 and hasn’t lost a fight since November 2010, so his record indicates he is one of the elite fighters in the division. However, he is ranked behind both Mendes and Frankie Edgar in the rankings, and likely got the jump over them for a title shot due to both Mendes and Edgar having already fought and lost to Aldo.
This is the perfect fight for McGregor to prove once and for all that he is true number one contender and a force to be reckoned with. Mendes is coming off a knockout victory against Ricardo Limas in April and is one of the few men to push Aldo to his limits. Last October, Mendes and Aldo engaged in a brutal war where Aldo edged out a unanimous decision. Their fight was called the fight of the year by many and Mendes’ reputation as one of the best in the UFC grew as a result. This will be the first real test for McGregor against top tier talent and if he defeats Mendes, especially in a decisive fashion, then no one can claim McGregor isn’t ready for the challenge of Aldo later in the fall.
McGregor is one of few young up and coming fighters that has a huge buzz around him. He has natural charisma and the rare ability to back up all of his trash talk. The fight against Mendes is the ultimate test of whether McGregor lives up to all the hype and if he comes out on top, the UFC will have a brand new superstar leading their company into the next several years and the fight against Aldo will do even better financial that it was originally supposed to. McGregor has the opportunity of a lifetime next Saturday and can cement his status of one of the best in all of MMA and prove that he can be the one to finally bring down Aldo when they finally clash.