Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), starstruck by the "it" factor of reigning featherweight champion Conor McGregor, put the 145-pound division on hold for the better part of 2016, as the "Notorious" one set sail for greener pastures north of his natural weight class.
The result was a welterweight split with longtime cult hero Nate Diaz, himself on loan from a lighter division. While the Stockton slugger upset the apple cart at UFC 196 back in March, his 170-pound do-over bore no fruit in the UFC 202 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last night in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Irishman captured a majority decision following a five-round dogfight.
While talk of a trilogy is inevitable, there is still work to be done back home. And since rematches are all the rage these days, current interim featherweight champion Jose Aldo -- popped and dropped at UFC 194 to cough up the crown -- will be waiting for his shot at redemption later this year.
Sorry Frankie, better luck next time.
During his post-fight victory speech, McGregor called for a definitive end to his Diaz feud. Specifically, a trip down to the lightweight division, a place he was expected to do work back when Rafael dos Anjos was wearing belts and walking on both legs.
I guess we've come full circle.
McGregor also declared the "king" was back, but I'm not sure his crown fits as well as he thinks it does. An emphatic finish in the UFC 202 main event -- not a majority decision -- was the key to erasing the painful memory of his UFC 196 implosion.
Something that may or may not have impacted struggling UFC 202 ticket sales.
It may seem unfair to criticize a fighter coming off a win, but McGregor -- by his own bombast -- set the bar impossibly high. "Mystic Mac" stood on Mt. Olympus and shamed the competition for being mortal, then asked the cageside judges to bail him out.
"Rumble" Johnson, meanwhile, turned UFC 202 into a snuff film.
UFC, want of major stars, needs another solid run out of McGregor. In part because "Notorious" is so damn entertaining, both in and out of the cage. But mostly because there's no one left to carry the proverbial torch. Jon Jones can't get out of his own way, and Brock Lesnar pissed away his chance at a heavyweight title shot.
I'm not sure a trilogy with Diaz can accomplish that goal and let's face it, the boys with the bucks did not cough up $4 billion because they like tying up loose ends. The goal here is to create superstars and the means to that end is a spectacular run with a litany of finishes.
Like this one.
In short, McGregor needs to go back to 145 pounds and do for featherweight what Anderson Silva did for middleweight. "The Spider" also took a few vacations from his weight cut, but always went back home to remind fans he was still king of his castle.
Along with the prince and the joker.