Conor McGregor is once again holding up an entire division (like UFC really cares). The UFC lightweight champion is leaving the 155-pound division beyond to challenge boxer Floyd Mayweather in a superfight on Aug. 26 from Las Vegas. While most understand McGregor’s move to the boxing ring considering his payday will be unworldly, the Irishman’s exit once again puts a strain on deserving title contenders of all shapes and sizes, including Brazilian striker Edson Barboza.
"Everything is stuck in the lightweight division," Barboza told ESPN. "Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor -- nobody is fighting. Everybody is out the next couple months. It's all the same as it was."
Barboza, 31, is currently riding a three-fight win streak (his longest since 2013) and coming off a spectacular flying knee knockout finish of Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 106. Outside of obvious title challengers Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, Barboza is arguably the most deserving contender in the UFC’s lightweight division. But if there is no room for Barboza to move up in the food chain while McGregor is off in Moneyland, why wouldn’t the Brazilian take his talents to a different weight class?
"I don't think that's a crazy idea," Barboza said. "I fought a couple Muay Thai fights at 145 pounds, a long time ago. I can make that weight.
"What about a superfight against [former featherweight champion] Jose Aldo? Imagine that. Two Brazilian strikers. Why not? That's a fight that would get me excited. He's the best 145-pounder ever. If the UFC offered that, I would definitely sit down and think about it."
Barboza’s recent efforts lead us to believe the Brazilian will get a big name his next time out. If he’s able to make a healthy and timely cut to 145-pounds, former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo would be a perfect opponent. Aldo, who recently lost his 145-pound strap to Max Holloway at UFC 212, would compliment Barboza’s strong striking skills and willingness to stand.
Of course, Barboza still has his sights set on a future lightweight showdown with McGregor.
"My last two fights, I fought dangerous guys ranked behind me," Barboza said. "I won and it didn't move me anywhere. That's the problem. I have to get a deal that is good for me.
"Khabib and Ferguson want to fight each other, but is the fight soon? Can it happen before 2020? Go ahead, fight each other, and then I'm next in line. For me, this division doesn't have a real champion. Conor has fought one time in this division and then never defended his belt.
"If he comes back I do think we will fight. Conor doesn't like to fight wrestlers. I'm a striker. If I fight with him I'll say, 'Bro, don't even train wrestling. I will not try to take you down. This fight will happen on the feet.'"
All we can do is wait and see what the promotion has planned for one of the most talented strikers at 155 pounds.