November 13, 2016
NEW YORK — Everyone knows Conor McGregor can talk the talk. But up until Saturday night, Eddie Alvarez wasn’t convinced that he could also walk the walk.
Since the moment he claimed the UFC lightweight title from Rafael dos Anjos back in June, the 32-year-old Kensington native said he wanted to defend his title against an opponent somewhat easier than the ones he faced in his first four bouts. Namely, he wanted to fight McGregor.
Perhaps that was a bad idea.
On Saturday night, the 28-year-old from Dublin made history. In front of a sold out crowd at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden, McGregor beat Alvarez to claim the lightweight title and become the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold two different belts.
Not only was the result of the main event a historic one, but the entire night was as well. For the first time ever, UFC hosted an event at MSG. And they delivered in a big way, breaking pretty much every UFC record, including pay-per-view buys.
But back to the main event between McGregor and Alvarez.
It was a healthy barrage of lefts from the southpaw that led to Alvarez finding himself down on at least three times in the first and a few more times in the second.
And in the second, the referee felt like Alvarez had seen enough. He stopped the fight, giving McGregor the historic win by knockout.
After the fight, the Irishman had a message to the rest of the UFC.
“I’ve ridiculed everyone on the roster," he said as president Dana White placed a belt on his shoulder. "I just want to say from the bottom of my heart -- I’d just like to take this time to apologize."
And then a pause.
"To absolutely nobody! The double-champ does what the f**k he wants!"
That, however, was not the special announcement that McGregor had been teasing in the buildup to this fight. That came during his post-fight press conference when he announced he's expecting his first child in early 2017.
Until then, he doesn't plan on fighting. That's because, well, it's better you hear it from him.
"I'm going to be a daddy early next year," he said. "I'm crapping my jocks!"
McGregor added that he's worried it will mess with his head, but it doesn't seem like that's the only reason he may take some time off before fighting again. He'd also like to talk to the UFC's new owners at WME-IMG about how he can get in on the action, because as Jay-Z put it, "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man."
"Have this baby, take a little bit of time and see what way I feel after that," McGregor said. "They've got to come talk to me now. No one has come talk to me since the sale [in July] happened -- as a businessman.
"Who owns the company? People have shares of the company, celebrities. Conan O'Brien owns the UFC these days. Where's my share? Where's my equity? If I'm the one bringing it in, they've got to come talk to me. That's all I know. You want me to stick around and keep doing what I'm doing? I want what I deserve. What I've earned."
Or, to pick up where we left off with Jay, "Now let me handle my business. Damn."
The question now is whether or not White will allow him to keep them both or force him to vacate the featherweight title he won 11 months ago — and has yet to defend — with a stunning first-round knockout of Jose Aldo.
It doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be able to hold them both very long, as that would create a log-jam of contenders atop two of the most stacked weight classes in all of UFC.
And there’s no guarantee that Alvarez will be first in line to get a shot at the man who took his belt. He also wasn't made available to the media, with the exception of a TV interview on his way out of the arena.
One name to keep an eye on is Khabib Nurmagomedov. The second-ranked lightweight, who felt he was more deserving of facing Alvarez than McGregor, defeated Michael Johnson by third-round submission earlier in the night. And after the win, he made sure the world knows what he wants next.
“I came in and executed my game plan,” he said after the fight. “Michael is good but I am the best in the world. I want to stay humble but I have to talk. Ireland only has 6 million people, Russia has 150 million. I want to fight your chicken! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
Some advice for Khabib: Be careful what you wish for. Just ask Alvarez.
Here are some other highlights from a memorable night at Madison Square Garden.
• Frankie Edgar, a Toms River native, beat Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision in a three-round featherweight bout.
“This feels incredible," Edgar said after the win. "It wasn’t an easy camp. I actually tore my MCL and had to get an epidural in my back but nothing was going to stop me from fighting in New York City. Jeremy is a beast. I knew I was going to have my hands full. He brings it every time he steps in the Octagon and he did exactly what I expected. That kick rung my bell for a second, but I felt I rallied back. Of course, one judge gave Jeremy the round, but what can you do? He’s a tough guy and I knew that could happen.
"I want to fight in Brooklyn. That’s all I care about. I should have someone in mind. I should say a name. I’m just going to get back in the gym, talk to my team and get ready to fight. Give me the Brooklyn card!”
He was the No. 2 featherweight contender coming in. Could he be next up for McGregor if he does indeed defend his featherweight title?
• Former bantamweight champion Miesha Tate announced her retirement from UFC following a loss to Raquel Pennington, one of her proteges, in the first of the main-card bouts.
• New York's own Chris Weidman did not have a happy homecoming. His fight again fourth-ranked Yoel Romero ended with Weidman, the second-ranked middleweight, sitting on the mat, blood pouring from his head, following this flying knee by Romero.
That looked ... unpleasant.
• The all-Polish women's strawweight title fight between contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz and champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk went to the judges scorecard. And it was Jedrzejczyk winning by unanimous decision (and remaining undefeated) in the first of three five-round title bouts on Saturday night.
It wasn't the best fight of thge night, but with so many title fights and top-ranked fighters on the card, that's not necessarily a knock on the two female fighters. They brought the crowd to its feet in the final round, and there was a moment there where it looked like Kowalkiewicz was going to take down the champ.
“Polish girls are the toughest in the world! Karolina was very tough," said Jedrzejczyk. "I am the best in the world and I continued to prove that tonight. I will be champion for a long time.”
• In the final fight before the main event, No. 2 contender Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson, who was actually the favorite in this one, and welterweight champion Tyron Woodley squared off. This one looked like it could be over in the first round when Woodley took it to Wonderboy and left him struggling to find his corner after the first five minutes.
Not so fast. Thompson bounced back in the second round, keeping Woodley in check and, more importantly, staying on his feet. But Woodley came out much more aggressive in the third round, a strategy he carried over into the fourth round, when he nearly finished Wonderboy. Somehow, he survived this. I'm not quite sure how, but he did.
As it turns out, five rounds were not enough to produce a winner, so we went to the judges. And that wasn't enough to decide it either. The result? A majority draw (47-47, 47-47, 48-47), not a split decision as was originally announced. Woodley retains the title.
“I don’t know what to think," Woodley said after the fight. "At the end of the day, it’s a big difference to get the draw than to get the win but I’ll take either over a loss any day. I just hate leaving the Octagon in that type of situation. I had some good moments. I could’ve pressed him more but I feel like the only significant damage done in that fight was by me. I should’ve created a little more distance when I rocked him so I could land more shots and end it. I went for the guillotine and feel like that was a bad decision. Even then, I thought that was close to a 10-8 round.
"I don’t agree with the draw. I thought I won, but he’s a tough kid and it was a great fight.”
There were more than a few celebrities on hand for the first-ever UFC event at the Garden.
Nick Jonas in the house at UFC 205 !!!!! .. I mean, I hear Nick Jonas is here. Whatevs.— Dan Gelston (@APgelston) November 13, 2016
JWoww & Rodger go wild for Chris Weidman. pic.twitter.com/J8gUzNfc2p— Dan Gelston (@APgelston) November 13, 2016
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