UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor is preparing for the biggest night of his life on Dec. 12, when he faces Jose Aldo at UFC 194 in a title unification bout.
However, the vibrant Irishman is already looking beyond it, discussing a possible rematch with the Brazilian and his plans to exert dominance in the lightweight division, too.
McGregor was asked whether he’d consider giving the Brazilian, the top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, a rematch; McGregor’s response was synonymously snappy, per Rory Brigstock-Barron of the MailOnline:
Let me see how the contest plays out. If he can give me a war in there and he can earn a rematch then we can do a rematch, but I just don't see him answering the bell for the second round.
I can't see his face or his body at the beginning of the second round. If he can come and bring a war and we can do this for five rounds then maybe I will consider a rematch, but I feel he won't get up off the stool and answer that bell for the second round.
It’s this kind of bullish talk that has ensured excitement levels are massive heading into this fight. The pair, who have never been shy in their dislike for one another, were scheduled to meet at UFC 189 earlier this year, but Aldo withdrew through injury. Chad Mendes stepped in as a late replacement and was stopped by McGregor in Round 2.
McGregor has been sceptical about whether his opponent would show up second time around, but he admitted that this time, it’s looking like Aldo will be ready for the fight. “I'll breathe a little bit easier when he touches down on U.S. soil,” he said, per Brigstock-Barron. “For the last fight it wasn't far off this time that he pulled out. But I feel we're going to go ahead with it.”
Should Aldo show, this will be one of the biggest fights in UFC history. McGregor’s win over Mendes has affirmed his status as a genuine competitor at this elite level, and many feel he’s the favourite to triumph at UFC 194, which is remarkable in itself when considering Aldo’s glittering record, having not lost for over a decade in professional MMA.
The brash personality of McGregor has drawn in a lot of fans, too. As Aldo noted himself, per Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com, that’s something even he can see the benefits of:
Still, McGregor is clearly confident of running over his opponent at UFC 194 and already has some grand plans for the future.
“I will KO Jose Aldo and I will face the winner of the lightweight belt, which takes place a week out (from UFC 194),” he said, per Michael Stets of MMA Mania. “So, within the next few fights, I will be a two-weight world champion.
They’re bold claims from McGregor. He’s proved he has the power to trouble opponents in the division up, as has been evident with knockout wins via punches in his last four UFC bouts. However, the size and reach advantage that the Irishman enjoys over the majority at featherweight would be reduced significantly should he move up in weight.
Nevertheless, as Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter notes here, it’s a challenge the 27-year-old seems intent on tackling:
While confidence is needed at this level, to completely overlook Aldo would be unwise from McGregor. This is the biggest challenge of the Irishman’s career to date, and while there’s little doubt he has the striking strength to trouble his illustrious opponent, there are reasons aplenty as to why Aldo is regarded so highly.
The Brazilian will be keen to show those qualities in the Octagon over a year on from beating Mendes himself. McGregor, for all his bravado, is smart enough to know he’ll have to be at the peak of his powers if he’s to triumph.