Opinion: The UFC have made a mess of the featherweight division and it's not Conor McGregor's fault

José Aldo has been promoted to featherweight champion

Conor McGregor

Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

The UFC's decision to strip Conor McGregor of the featherweight title was done in the wrong manner and at the wrong time.

The double-champion's reign lasted only 14 days before his employers stripped him of one of his titles earlier this week. 

An injury to light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier meant he had to be pulled from the main event at UFC 206. His opponent, Anthony Johnson, was offered the chance to fight for an interim title but chose to sit out and wait for Cormier.

The ripple effect of this is that the featherweight bout between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis was promoted to the main event and, in what appears to be an obvious marketing ploy, the UFC have put the interim featherweight title on the line.

Jose Aldo was promoted to full champion without throwing a punch and Conor McGregor's historic regin as a two-weight champion is over, for the time being anyway.

The real question is: had Anthony Johnson accepted an interim light-heavyweight title fight, would McGregor have been stripped?

Ariel Helwani hammered the UFC on Monday's "The MMA hour" where he suggested the organisation had not got the Dubliner on board with the decision and only made the change due to an injury to a champion in a different division.

The UFC say he "relinquished" the belt but the radio-silence coming from Dublin would suggest otherwise. 

Former lighweight champion Anthony Pettis is an exciting fighter but has only had one fight at featherweight. He is 1-3 going into his bout with Holloway. Where's the outcry of special treatment for Pettis? Imagine the furore if McGregor was given an interim title shot having lost three of his last four.

Holloway has won nine straight since losing to McGregor back in 2013 and is as deserving as anyone of a title shot.

Jose Aldo hasn't fought since July and is likely to sit out further while the winner of the interim belt recovers after his victory. 

Light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier hasn't defended his title since October 2015 and is unlikely to do so until March 2017. Why isn't he being stripped? The answer is he "played ball" when Jon Jones was suddenly suspended before UFC 200 and took a late notice non-title fight against Anderson Silva which has bought him some leeway. 

The same could be said of McGregor. He took a late notice non-title fight against Nate Diaz when Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out due to injury although his willingness to save the UFC 196 card backfired when Diaz submitted him in the second round.

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz fight at UFC 202 in Las Vegas. Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

The subsequent rematch gave the UFC another blockbuster PPV at UFC 202 before the Dubliner stepped up once again to give the first UFC card in New York the superfight it needed.   

In turn, McGregor held up the featherweight division to an extent. He beat a list of contenders before stopping Aldo in 13 seconds. Aldo's second win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 cemented his position as the number one contender.

An Aldo-Holloway fight would have made more sense than any other to make if the Dubliner was to be stripped and a fight for a new champion was to take place.  

Aldo's promotion to full champion is even more bizarre given his recent statements on retirement and throwing fights to get out of his contract.

The UFC are to blame for this mess and nobody else is. They were happy to let McGregor fight outside his weight class when they saw the buy-rates for the Diaz fights and when they needed him for New York.

How the Dubliner reacts to this will be interesting to see.