By Adam Martin
Tuesday, April 19, 2016 was one of the stranger days in MMA history. Everything was going just fine as usual when UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor -- the top draw in the sport -- tweeted out a message saying he was retiring.
Immediately, many fans and media speculated that McGregor was just playing a joke, one designed to get himself more attention during the week Jon Jones returns to the Octagon at UFC 197. Some figured that even if the threat was serious, maybe this was just a way for McGregor to coax more money for his UFC 200 bout with Nate Diaz.
Personally, I wasn't assuming McGregor was joking. I even speculated on Twitter that maybe the death of Joao Carvalho, who McGregor knew quite well and who died following a recent TKO defeat in Dublin, Ireland, played a part, as McGregor was cageside to witness what led to the Portuguese fighter's tragic death. But really, none of us had a clue.
Later on Tuesday night, UFC president Dana White spoke about McGregor, alleging that McGregor's refusal to fly to the United States to film promotional materials and attend a press conference led to the UFC yanking McGregor from UFC 200, leaving the company's biggest pay-per-view show of the year without a main event. We still have not heard McGregor's full side of the story, and hopefully we will before this week is up, but for now, we have to assume that UFC 200 is going on without McGregor on it, and the UFC has to look for alternative main events.
Here are five bouts that could replace McGregor vs. Diaz as the UFC 200 main event:
1) Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 2
2) Nate Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler or Rafael dos Anjos
Diaz was supposed to fight McGregor, but now he doesn't have a fight, and the UFC has told him they will try to keep him on the card. Considering his fight with McGregor was supposed to be at welterweight, then he should be able to fight at 170 lbs if he elects to stay on the card. And if he does, a matchup with UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler, who is not currently booked for a fight, would be a really entertaining main event that fans will undoubtedly be excited for. Plus, Lawler's history with Nate's brother Nick would help in promoting the bout. Another option would be to scrap the Rafael dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez Fight Night bout and give Diaz a rematch with RDA for the UFC lightweight title. Either way, Diaz fighting for the 170- or 155-pound beltsl would be big.
3) Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit or Tyron Woodley
Robbie Lawler rematch Carlos Condit, who he recently defeated in an incredible title fight at UFC 195, or have Lawler fight #1 welterweight contender Tyron Woodley. Lawler is one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, and although he is quiet and reserved (the opposite of McGregor basically) fans love watching him fight. With the UFC 200 undercard being quite stacked as it is, maybe the UFC will figure Lawler's next fight would be a suitable main event.
4) Georges St-Pierre vs. Nate Diaz or Robbie Lawler
Georges St-Pierre was interviewed by Ariel Helwani this week and he confirmed he is in discussions with the UFC, although he does not know when he will return for sure. If the UFC could give GSP enough money, then his return at UFC 200 would be massive at the box office. GSP has said that he wants to come back for the biggest fights possible, and not necessarily the belt, so a fight with Diaz would make the most sense since it would be a big show. But a fight with Lawler would be the most competitive fight possible, and maybe the best welterweight title fight in MMA history on paper. GSP seems more likely to return at the UFC's New York show in November, but if he can be convinced to return for UFC 200, this would be huge.
5) Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate 3
This one is the most unlikely since Ronda Rousey has already said she plans a return later this year, in the winter. But if the UFC can offer her enough money, maybe she would come back to fight Miesha Tate in a trilogy fight at UFC 200. It's hard to say if Rousey could get into fight shape by that time, and recent photos suggest she is not ready to compete just yet, but if she is motivated enough to save the show, you know the UFC would do this.
UFC 200: Tate vs. Nunes (formerly UFC 200: Cormier vs. Jones 2, UFC 200: Lesnar vs. Hunt) takes place on July 9, 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.