Joe Rogan (L) interviews Conor McGregor (R) (José Youngs/The MMA CornerUFC 196: A Backdoor to a Welterweight Shot for McGregor Jay Anderson March 4, 2016 Events, Spotlight, UFC History has shown that want Conor McGregor wants, Conor McGregor gets. So it’s no surprise to see him talking about a title shot at welterweight (his coach, John Kavanagh, brought up the weight class last year), and it will be even less surprising if he gets it. It’s a shame for the featherweight division especially (it’s likely it will lose its biggest star by the end of the year), but realistically, it’s already in motion. In short, McGregor vs. Nate Diaz is a backdoor title eliminator with only one man in the running: Conor McGregor. Should Mystic Mac win, the UFC can proudly trumpet that a new contender has arrived at 170lbs. Sure, that’s overlooking the fact that Nate Diaz himself is a lightweight, but it creates a wonderful amount of attention for a division that, while putting on some great fights in the past twelve months (Lawler vs. MacDonald, Lawler vs. Condit, Thompson vs. Hendricks), has grown a bit stale at the box office since the loss of GSP. The kind of rub the Notorious one brings — that livens things up immediately. As far as critics — pairing McGregor against Diaz gives him a win, on paper at least, in the division if he’s victorious at UFC 196. It’s a preemptive strike for those who would complain about him hopping the line, as he was set to at lightweight. And should he lose, either against Diaz or Lawler, if it goes that way, it doesn’t hurt his brand: after all, he was fighting up two full weight classes. B.J. Penn fought up in weight, and while successful early, probably should have stuck to fighting smaller guys towards the end (which is no longer the end, with Penn set to return, but that’s another story). In any case, his legend is secure. McGregor’s will be as well. In fact, the entire debacle, if you choose to see it as one, has worked out in the UFC’s favor, in an almost conspiratorial fashion. Not that I’m suggesting anything of the sort: call it the luck of the Irish, but in losing a title shot against Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 196, Conor McGregor may have opened up the door to two title shots. Think about it this way: if McGregor were to fight Rafael Dos Anjos and lose, would anyone want to see him move up to welterweight? At the very least, he would have to go up and earn a few wins against legit title contenders, no easy feat with names like Condit, Hendricks, Thompson, Woodley, and MacDonald stalking the division. However, if he jumps up into a title shot at welterweight before fighting for the lightweight strap, he has an insurance policy in his quest for two UFC titles: were he to lose at welterweight, it wouldn’t hurt his chances at 155lbs. The UFC could play it off as “hey, he was fighting much bigger guys.” And none of this is really wrong. The UFC and McGregor both have played it smart with his career, and thanks to a little bit of luck and a lot of skill, we’ve reached a point where almost anything is possible — McGregor just needs to beat Diaz Saturday night. That’s his ticket to not one but two more title shots.