Opinion: Conor McGregor's incredible success in two weight classes shouldn't be downplayed

He became the first person ever in the UFC to hold two titles simultaneously earlier this year

BY Simon Maguire 16:23 Monday 12 December 2016, 16:23 12 Dec 2016

Conor McGregor celebrates winning Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

Conor McGregor's historic feat in becoming the first person in UFC history to hold two title belts simultaneously should not be downplayed after he was stripped of the featherweight title recently. 

Only two others have held titles in two divisions - Randy Couture and BJ Penn - but never at the same time. 
 
Couture is a former light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion, having fought and beaten the likes of Vitor Belfort, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz when he competed in the UFC between 1997 and 2011.
 
BJ Penn is a former welterweight and lightweight champion, and is still active. However he has dropped five of his last seven bouts, including a one-sided stoppage loss to Frankie Edgar in his last outing. 
 
 
Conor McGregor with Eddie Alvarez
Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan
 
The difficulty in winning one title, let alone two, is evident in the amount of times the titles change hands. Only the truly great fighters dominate a division for any significant spell.
 
Even now, the lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, and heavyweight titles have changed hands more often than not recently, with only flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson on any current run of note.
 
Johnson is a super-slick all round whizz in the octagon, and has cleared out his division almost twice over at this stage. He is due to defend against Joe Benavidez for a third time next year, despite having come out on top in their first two bouts.
 
A move back up to bantamweight really should be the next challenge for the diminutive Johnson, but he has already suffered a fairly comprehensive loss to title-holder Dominick Cruz, albeit back in 2011.
 
A champion-vs-champion super-fight between the pair in 2017 could do well on pay-per-view and would give the lower divisions the shot in the arm that they require to boost their popularity.
 
At the weekend, former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis was competing in his second bout at featherweight. However, he struggled with his weight-cut and weighed in at 148 lbs - three over the limit.
 
His interim title bout with Holloway was allowed to proceed, but Pettis would not claim title if he were to be victorious. It didn't matter anyway, as Holloway dominated the fight and stopped the former champion in the third round.
 
Pettis is now at a crossroads in his career having lost three in a row at lightweight before being humbled at the weekend.
 
Frankie Edgar is another who dreams of two-weight success. The former lightweight king lost his title to Benson Henderson in 2012, and fell to the same fate in the rematch.
 
Conor McGregor is declared the winner by majority decision
Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan
 
He immediately dropped to featherweight and challenged then champion Jose Aldo. The Brazilian defended his title but Edgar has stayed relevant in the division and is still ranked as the number one contender, although Max Holloway is now next in line to challenge the division's champion after his win at the weekend.
  
Former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida dropped to middleweight to take on Chris Weidmann in 2014, only to lose a unanimous decision in the fight of the night.
 
Edgar will most likely be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and Machida is a possibility but is currently suspended for "unknowingly" taking a banned substance. He is due back to fight in October 2017.
 
The fact that McGregor has achieved "the deuce" with relative ease should not be overlooked for its significance or difficulty. Many great fighters have tried, few have succeeded.  
 
Next challenges
 
McGregor is due to take a break from the sport until the end of next summer as he prepares for the birth of his first child.
 
In the meantime, it will allow a true number one contender to emerge from either Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nate Diaz is also patiently waiting in the wings for his rubber match with the Dubliner.
 
No title-holder in the lightweight division has ever defended the belt more than three times, and this should be McGregor's next challenge.  Beating the three aforementioned candidates would be ideal, and perhaps a rematch with Jose Aldo or Max Holloway will also be on the cards further down the line.
 
 
Conor McGregor during the post fight press conference
Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan
  
There is also the possibility of an attempt at a third title at welterweight, although this could be some way off. The top five in the division is currently a "murderers row" of contenders with Stephen Thompson, Robbie Lawlor, Damien Maia, Carlos Condit and Donald Cerrone all looking to challenge champion Tyron Woodley for gold.
 
Whatever McGregor decides to do upon his return, his accomplishments in the UFC are already legendary. Adding to his historic legacy will be an even greater challenge.   
News

Scott Evans headed for the final at Forza Sports Irish Open

22:34 Friday 9 December 2016 1 Minute Read
News

"All you need to know about Gary Neville is to say one word" - Paddy Mulligan on the war of words with Karius

16:09 Monday 12 December 2016 2 Minute Read
News

Leinster dominate Northampton to record 37-10 away win

22:09 Friday 9 December 2016 3 Minute Read
News

Player ratings: Munster v Leicester

18:34 Saturday 10 December 2016 4 Minute Read
Off The Ball

Newsletter

The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week