By Raphael Garcia
Mixed martial arts has taken center stage in the sports world with a major weekend of events that kicked off Thursday night with UFC Fight Night 80. And like that event, both cards that follow it feature at least one fight in which the UFC has a major stake in a particular individual walking out with the win. While it’s risky to say that Zuffa is rooting for one fighter to prevail over the other, there are business implications that follow each individual who could emerge victorious from the main events on Friday and Saturday night.
The festivities on Friday night’s TUF 22 Finale card feature a featherweight matchup that has long been talked about. Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will step into the cage to face Chad Mendes. Both of these men are at the top of the 145-pound weight class, but have slipped up in their bids to take the crown.
Mendes, on the other hand, suffered two defeats to Aldo at UFC 142 and UFC 179. He then stepped in to challenge Conor McGregor for the Interim title at UFC 189 where he came up short in his third bid for gold. Still, the Team Alpha Male candidate is considered one of the best in the sport.
Looking at these two competitors, Edgar stands out as the better candidate to challenge for the crown. Even though he has that loss to Aldo from two years ago, he’s looked very exciting in his last few fights, and his performances raise the question of whether Aldo could defeat this version of him. If he’s paired with McGregor, his nickname of “The Answer” will come to fruition, as the world will finally see whether the Irishman can defeat a complete wrestler like the New Jersey native.
That brings the conversation to the main event at UFC 194, where McGregor and Aldo will finally meet in what is perhaps the most anticipated bout of 2015. Experts and fans alike are torn as to who will win this bout, however one wonders whether the minds behind Zuffa would rather see a new champion in McGregor rather than see Aldo prove that he’s the best featherweight to ever compete.
Aldo is at an interesting point in his career. The 29-year-old competitor has a 25-1 record, which includes 18 straight wins and seven title defenses. However, he’s never been considered much of a PPV draw. The emergence of McGregor has pulled Aldo into the purview of fan interest, very similar to what Chael Sonnen did for Anderson Silva.
Unfortunately for the UFC, McGregor has started to take a tone that’s quite similar to Aldo and others that have complained about their true value as professional athletes and whether or not it can be realized within the promotion. However, McGregor draws a level of attention that Aldo has never been able to. Appearances on ESPN, in GQ Magazine, and in other mainstream outlets cements him as the biggest star for this organization not named Ronda Rousey. A win on Saturday allows him to continue to push his star forward while the organization rakes in money.
Fans will always have an opinion about who they want or believe will win a major match. The promotions behind those fighters, however, have an even larger part in the conversation. Looking ahead to the two cards this weekend from a business standpoint, Frankie Edgar and Conor McGregor are the best choices for the UFC to secretly root for in the back.
TUF 22 Finale
• Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes
• Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor (UFC Featherweight Championship)
The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale: Edgar vs. Mendes takes place on December 11, 2015 at Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor takes place on December 12, 2015 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.