LAS VEGAS (AP) — Conor McGregor will try to become the first fighter to hold two UFC belts simultaneously on a night the sport makes a splashy entrance into the last U.S. state to legalize mixed martial arts.
The wildly popular Irish brawler is fighting in the main event for Eddie Alvarez’s lightweight belt — one of three title fights on a card with several fights that could easily headline on another night. The UFC wants its Madison Square Garden event on Nov. 12 to top the promotion’s biggest cards, especially after UFC 200 in July was marred by doping violations and a lineup that reshuffled several times.
UFC officials planned to meet with reporters Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, some five months after state lawmakers ended a ban on professional MMA as a move to boost the economy.
The stacked card also includes new welterweight champion Tyron Woodley’s first title defense against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, along with strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s defense against fellow Pole Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Popular veteran fighters Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Miesha Tate, Frankie Edgar, Chris Weidman and Rashad Evans also are in the show.
McGregor (20-3) has become the UFC’s biggest active star in the past two years with a series of gritty fights and a loquacious promotional style. Although he won the UFC’s featherweight title in December with a 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo, his last two fights were lucrative welterweight bouts against Nate Diaz, with McGregor avenging his loss to Diaz in August. He was originally scheduled to headline UFC 200 in Las Vegas against Diaz, but the bout was bumped when McGregor bickered with the UFC over money and promotional obligations.
McGregor gets to keep his 145-pound title when he takes on Alvarez (28-4), who won the 155-pound belt in July with a first-round stoppage of Rafael Dos Anjos. McGregor still hasn’t defended the featherweight belt.
Aldo beat Edgar in July to win an interim featherweight title, and the Brazilian is unlikely to be happy about the UFC’s latest decision. UFC President Dana White had previously indicated that McGregor would need to defend his belt against Aldo soon.
Unbeaten lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov is also unhappy about McGregor taking his place in line to fight Alvarez. The tough Russian fighter tweeted at Alvarez and McGregor that “your time will come to get my hands on you.”
UFC 205 is a chance for the promotion to showcase a megacard in a way it failed to do earlier this year in Las Vegas when McGregor was pulled from UFC 200. The replacement main event was also canceled when Jon Jones was notified of a potential doping violation the week of the fight, disqualifying him from his bout with Daniel Cormier. After UFC 200, U.S. anti-doping officials also found Brock Lesnar, the former WWE star, had violated the UFC’s drug policy at the event.
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