Is Conor McGregor Avoiding A Featherweight Title Defense?

Is Conor McGregor trying to avoid defending his featherweight title?

His teammate, Gunner Nelson, thinks so.

In an interview with The MMA Hour, Gunner told host, Ariel Helwani, that McGregor could go down in weight, but the featherweight champion may not want to because of the “nasty” cut he will have to endure.

“I know he can go back down and defend his title, no problem. But I just think he doesn’t want to do that cut again. It’s a nasty one, and I agree with him. I understand that. So I think maybe I would like to see him going to the 155 [lightweight division] before going all the way up to the welterweight. But you know, he can do whatever he feels like.”

Indeed, Conor McGregor seems to be enjoying life in the higher weight divisions, as well as the diet it allows him.

“Steaks for breakfast, steaks for lunch, steaks for brunch. Grass-fed, massaged beef all day long. It’s a nice feeling and my body is reaping the rewards.”

McGregor’s longtime coach, John Kavanagh, agrees.

“Conor has been cutting down to 145 pounds since he was 16. He’s now 27 so it will be nice to take a break from that weight-cut. We’ve done it plenty of times before and we’ll do it again. Funnily enough, the last weight-cut€” for the Aldo fight€” was probably the best one yet thanks to the help of George Lockhart, who’s on board again for this fight [the cancelled fight against Rafael dos Anjos]. He’s part of the team now. You’ve seen Conor on salads… now watch what he’s like on steak.”

Earlier this year, Conor posted a picture on Instagram, and fans and media could not help but comment on his added bulk.

The Silverback. #UFC197

A photo posted by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

In his last match against Nate Diaz at UFC 196, Conor McGregor fought in the UFC’s welterweight division, which is reserved for those who weigh between 156 and 170 pounds. This is two weight classes above the featherweight division, which has an upper limit of 145 pounds.

When McGregor weighed in at UFC 196, he was 168 pounds, 23 pounds heavier than when he weighed in at UFC 194 for his featherweight championship bout against Jose Aldo.

Yet if his match against Diaz proved anything, it is that Conor may not be able to bully the higher weight classes in the same way he has bullied fighters in his own weight division.

At the time of their fight, Diaz was not highly-ranked in his weight class. In fact, as Rafael dos Anjos correctly pointed out, Diaz was only #5 on the lightweight roster, yet he still beat Conor with relative ease in the second round of their match.

One can only imagine what would have happened if McGregor had fought dos Anjos, the current lightweight champion, as was originally planned. What would have happened if he had fought Robbie Lawler, the welterweight champion, in Lawler’s own weight class? Would he have even been able to get past the first round?

It is therefore questionable if Conor McGregor can back up his mouth in the heavier divisions. Though the weight-cut-free, grass-fed-steak lifestyle might be nice for him, Conor may be better off running his mouth in the featherweight division.

But who knows? Perhaps his first fight in the UFC outside of featherweight was just a minor setback in what will eventually be a dominant run in the lightweight or even welterweight divisions. Conor may even like it so much in the 155-pound and 170-pound weight classes that he may vacate his featherweight strap in favor of its lightweight or welterweight equivalents.

Either way, it will no doubt be music to the ears of Frankie Edgar, who is fighting former featherweight champion Jose Aldo in an interim championship bout at UFC 200.

If I hold the interim, there’s no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I have to be fighting that guy for the title, or my title becomes the title if [McGregor] doesn’t come down.

Yet no matter where McGregor decides to keep fighting, fans will probably not have to wait long to see the trash-talking Irishman in action.

According to Nelson, Conor McGregor should be back in the octagon by UFC 201 or 202.

[Image via John Locher/AP Images]