Conor McGregor cut an ominous figure behind the steel fence as Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar met for the second time at UFC 200.
Dana White made it clear that the winner of the interim title fight would get the next crack at the Irishman's featherweight crown, and many believed that Edgar would be the man to gain the golden ticket.
Compared to Aldo who was coming off his first defeat in ten years–an emphatic, and now iconic 13 second knockout at the hands of 'The Notorious' at UFC 194–Edgar has gained steady momentum in the weight class. Since his initial bout in the division, a decision loss to Aldo back in February 2013, 'The Answer' tagged on five wins with notable stoppage victories over BJ Penn, Cub Swanson and Chad Mendes.
His first round knockout of Mendes was supposed to enough. Before the post-fight press conference even began at The Cosmopolitan on the Friday night, media and members of his team were adamant that the early stoppage made Edgar undeniable as a contender. When McGregor put a fatal stamp on his bout with Aldo the following day and unified the titles, the date with the Dubliner was all but confirmed.
However, as Conor McGregor took to the dais after his win over Aldo, he had different weight divisions on his mind. Eventually he faced Nate Diaz at welterweight and tasted the first defeat in his UFC career. Just when everyone was sure it would be Edgar's time to challenge his title, McGregor decided that he wanted another date with Diaz, obscuring the Tom River native's trajectory.
Both Aldo and Edgar seemed to have their minds on the Dubliner leading into their contest. Appearing on Talking Brawls on SevereMMA.com the week before the interim title fight, it was clear that Edgar's whole team were vying for a date with the Irishman, and getting fed up in doing so.
"Conor is a joke, I don't even want to talk about Conor," said Henry. "I don't understand this fight that he's having, now. I think he's a clown."
"How many tries is he going to have, you get to have another re-try, another re-try and another re-try? It's a joke. I don't know how long we're going to go without this guy defending the belt."
"I just think he should give it up. I don't know what he's so afraid of about giving up that belt. All he talks about is Mayweather, Nate Diaz and Lawler. The one thing he doesn't talk about is his featherweight title."
Just when the odds were staked against the greatest featherweight in the history of the sport, he put one of his signature clinics on against Edgar. The constant talk of how UFC 189's world tour and the subsequent loss at UFC 194 had affected him was dismissed with his masterful display.
Instead of the leg kicks and jabs that kept Edgar guessing throughput their first meeting, Aldo used his power hand and his knees to stifle the American's attempts at getting on the inside to land shots or work for a takedown. All eleven of Edgar's attempts to ground his opponent were defended, and in the end, he had beaten Edgar in a far more resounding fashion than the first time they met.
Edgar's pursuit of McGregor came to an end with the final bell at the T-Mobile Arena. Without really troubling Aldo during the contest, it will be a long road back for the former lightweight champion. Aldo, in victory, stole Edgar's momentum, and the talk quickly turned to a rematch between him and McGregor in his post fight interview.
"Frankie is a great athlete," Aldo told Joe Rogan in the middle of the Octagon. "I respect everyone, but I have one goal and it's to beat this guy," he pointed in the direction of McGregor, "and you can bet the next time I come in here I will beat him."
He continued his goading of the featherweight champion at the post-fight press conference.
"I'm prepared and we can fight right now if he wants to," said Aldo. "We're just going to have to see if he keeps his word and if he doesn't show up I'll have to see him somewhere else to fight him."
It must be quite deflating for Edgar having seemingly been on the verge of bout with McGregor for the last year. That being said, if there's one man you wouldn't rule out of putting together another run to get back to McGregor should he still top division down the line.
Inevitably, with Aldo set as the next challenge and Nate Diaz firmly in McGregor's crosshairs, Edgar has some work to do. Yet, he's never shied away from hard graft in the past, so I doubt that we have seen the last of the 34-year-old.