Rankings Focus: Is Conor McGregor really a top-10 featherweight?
Conor McGregor is a star -- and that's hard to dispute. But does he deserve his shiny new spot in the featherweight top 10?
Conor McGregor celebrates his knockout win over Diego Brandao.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
By Marc Raimondi
Conor McGregor is a star. All you have to do is watch him fight and listen to him talk and that's plainly obvious. Anyone denying the Irishman his just due in that regard is simply a hater. McGregor has the "it" factor that can turn popular fighters into personalities who transcend a sport.
McGregor is excellent for MMA and the UFC. The fans in Ireland clearly love him and his charisma makes people care about him -- whether they want to root for him or root for him to get knocked out.
None of the above has anything to do with McGregor's standing in the featherweight division, though. At least when it comes to rankings. Does he have a greater chance of getting a title shot more quickly than others? Of course. Because of his mouth. Chael Sonnen was a "No. 1 contender" three separate times in two divisions.
McGregor came in at No. 10 in the UFC's official featherweight contender rankings this week, jumping up two spots. In this case, that might be more due to his hype than his résumé. If he had knocked out Diego Brandao on the prelims Saturday rather than in the main event in front of his hometown fans in Dublin, it probably wouldn’t have been much of a blip on the radar.
In this case the UFC's promotional strength swayed media voters into thinking McGregor is more deserving than he actually is. That's great for the UFC. They have a bonafide draw on their hands with McGregor and should be doing everything in their power to make him bigger.
Dennis Bermudez has won six in a row, but has fallen behind Conor McGregor in the featherweight rankings.
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
The media, though, should know better. The two fighters McGregor surpassed on his way to the top 10 -- Jeremy Stephens and Dennis Bermudez -- have done far more in their careers than McGregor. Bermudez, who meets No. 7 Clay Guida at UFC Fight Night: Brown vs. Lawler on Saturday (FOX, 8 p.m.), has won six in a row in the UFC, a pretty impressive achievement in the strong 145-pound division. Stephens is coming off a tight, five-round loss to featherweight No. 1 contender Cub Swanson after winning three straight.
McGregor? He's won his first three fights in the UFC, all against unranked opponents. Largely, the Irishman is unproven, at least in terms of his ability. He's proven now when it comes to star power and that's what is influencing votes.
McGregor has a world of potential and could be a top-five featherweight in the UFC for a long time. If he wins one more fight, he might even get a title shot. But McGregor's ability to make money has nothing to do with his ranking. If it did, Sonnen, even retired, would be on the pound-for-pound list.
Imagine what would have happened to her ranking if Leslie Smith (right) lost to Jessamyn Duke.
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Voters, what did Leslie Smith ever do to you?
When last we saw her, Smith was wrecking Jessamyn Duke with the kind of violent TKO rarely seen in the UFC's women's bantamweight division Wednesday in Atlantic City. Her reward? Being dropped a peg in the rankings to No. 14. Racquel Pennington, who is coming off a loss to Jessica Andrade in March, moved over her to No. 13.
Worst yet, Smith beat Pennington head to head last year in Invicta. Many of the voters probably didn't see that fight and maybe results from other organizations shouldn’t matter. But what Smith did against Duke was impressive. She certainly didn’t deserve to move down a spot in favor of someone whose most recent bout was a defeat.
John Lineker (left) moved down a spot in the flyweight rankings despite knocking out Alptekin Ozkilic.
-- Gunnar Nelson moved up to No. 12, flip-flopping with Mike Pyle, after his win over Zak Cummings on Saturday in Dublin. Nelson has been in the rankings for a few months now and it's time he faces someone in there, too. The winner of next month's bout between No. 8 Demian Maia and Pyle would be our pick.
-- Stipe Miocic moved into the heavyweight top five, ahead of Josh Barnett, despite not having fought since May. Our guess why? He's really good at Twitter.