Why Mendes vs. McGregor Was the Right Move For UFC 189

By Raphael Garcia

Mixed martial arts fans may be upset, but they shouldn’t be totally let down by the changes to UFC 189. Jose Aldo is out, after much speculation, due to an injured rib, and Chad Mendes was tapped to face Conor McGregor in a fight that will crown an interim featherweight champion. Yes, Frankie Edgar was left standing out in the cold by the UFC, but that decision was more of a business move than a sports one. Shady business or not, Mendes-McGregor is an interesting fight for reasons beyond the fighters’ win-loss record.

It is clear why matchmakers went with the Team Alpha Male competitor over the fighter from New Jersey. Mendes and McGregor have been going at each other for the last year or so in the media. Hardcore fans remember McGregor threatening to “rest [his] balls” on Mendes’ forehead, and that one-liner was enough to set Mendes off. Edgar, on the other hand, has widely praised McGregor and his antics, even going as far as to say that McGregor is helping to bring attention to the featherweight division. According to Edgar, McGregor is doing a fantastic job of hyping up his run within a division that needs to build stars.

Beyond that, there are other reasons why this fight makes sense. Mendes failed in both of his bids to take the title from around Aldo’s waist, and both defeats were sound enough that a third fight was well out of sight as long as Aldo continued his death grip on the division. However, not only is McGregor a fresh matchup at the top of the division, but with a win, Mendes can earn the instant title shot that an interim championship brings. And for McGregor, it’s an opportunity to score his biggest victory to date, over the man who fought Aldo to a near-standstill the last time they fought. In his most recent bout he looked just as dominant when he crushed Ricardo Lamas at UFC Fight Night 67

Edgar, on the other hand, has been just as impressive as Mendes, riding a four-fight win streak. However, of the four fighters Edgar’s defeated, only two were contenders in the featherweight division. BJ Penn moved down for the first time in his career and looked unimpressive in their fight at The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale. Urijah Faber was a longtime featherweight champion, but it’s been five years since he’s been relevant in that division. Edgar’s wins over Cub Swanson and Charles Oliveira are very valuable, but they do not carry the same weight as Mendes’ 8 wins in division-relevant fights.

Unfortunately for Edgar and his fans, Mendes carries promotional advantages and a larger body of work into this main event opportunity at UFC 189. Edgar may be considered the number one contender in the eyes of many, but the UFC matchmakers have long shown a penchant for not valuing rankings as much as hardcore fans or the media would like them to. Regardless, the four-way battle for title contention between Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, and Conor McGregor will come to a head soon. Fight fans may not get to see Aldo and McGregor square off in the Octagon as soon as they’d like — if at all — but at this very moment, the decision to go with Mendes over Edgar was the right one.

UFC 189

Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes (UFC Interim Featherweight Championship)

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UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor (formerly UFC 189: Aldo vs. McGregor) takes place on July 11, 2015 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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