Gilbert Melendez: Conor McGregor is ‘absolutely not the No. 1 contender’
For all the bluster surrounding Conor McGregor going into this weekend’s fights, the one certain that holds true above all else is a win over Dennis Siver will put the brash Irishman into his first UFC title fight later this year against champion Jose Aldo.
McGregor’s rise up the featherweight rankings was cemented in September when he toppled Dustin Poirier in less than a round at UFC 178. His fight on Sunday will actually be against a lower ranked opponent as Siver steps into the Octagon as the No. 10 ranked fighter in the world.
While Siver’s veteran credentials can’t be questioned, his lack of success against top opponents can definitely serve as a sounding board for anyone who believes a win over the German shouldn’t necessarily earn McGregor a shot at the belt.
Count former UFC lightweight title contender Gilbert Melendez amongst those detractors who understand why McGregor is getting all the attention right now, but still thinks he hasn’t done enough to leap frog other fighters with bigger wins over better competition.
Case in point is Melendez’s broadcast partner on FOX Sports 1 this weekend, former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who is coming off a dominating finish over Cub Swanson, who was ranked No. 2 in the world prior to their fight last November.
He’s absolutely not the No. 1 contender in my opinion. The most deserving guy will be the guy sitting right next to me, Frankie Edgar
— Gilbert Melendez on Conor McGregor
"He’s absolutely not the No. 1 contender in my opinion," Melendez told FOX Sports about McGregor’s standing in the division. "The most deserving guy will be the guy sitting right next to me, Frankie Edgar. He just demolished B.J. Penn and I was looking forward to his fight with Cub Swanson, hoping to see a very competitive fight and he smashed him as well. Some people thought he beat Jose Aldo, it was a toss-up. I gave it to Aldo, but it’s a toss up.
"In my opinion, Frankie Edgar is the most deserving."
Edgar’s accomplishments are indisputable when looking at what he’s done since moving down to 145-pounds. He took Aldo to a decision, which was as close a call as he’s ever had during his reign as champion. Edgar has remained undefeated at featherweight outside of the loss to Aldo, and following his dismantling of Swanson, it seemed like an easy argument to put him in the title fight instead of McGregor.
The UFC opted for star power and appeal with McGregor quickly becoming one of the most talked about and recognizable names on the entire roster. Melendez understands that when it comes to title fights it’s not just about who is the guy that should be standing across the cage from the champion, but who can bring the most eyeballs to watch it as well.
"We know the business and I’m not going to be a cry baby because I know how it works," Melendez explained. "McGregor’s not completely undeserving of a title shot. If he wins this fight and does it in impressive fashion, there is a reason to give him the title shot. Is McGregor the most deserving? I don’t think so."
Deserved has almost become a four-letter word in the UFC lately when it comes to top contenders and title shots.
Rory MacDonald got a rough lesson in the politics behind title shots when he was promised the next crack at the belt when he ran over Tarec Saffiedine last October, but following Robbie Lawler’s triumphant win to close out 2014, the promotion opted to go in another direction. Now MacDonald has to face Hector Lombard in April and even with a win he’s not guaranteed anything when it comes to a chance to fight for the belt.
Melendez can understand the frustration a fighter like Edgar might feel considering he’s got to sit and watch events unfold that are out of his control. Still, Melendez can’t deny that there is real intrigue surrounding a potential Aldo-McGregor pairing — it just doesn’t mean he’s truly the person who should be fighting for the belt.
"If you have the Conor McGregor fight against Jose Aldo, am I going to buy it? Heck yeah I’m going to buy it. Heck yeah, I want to see it. Is it an interesting matchup? Yeah, I do think it’s an interesting matchup. I want to see it," Melendez said.
"But is Frankie Edgar the most deserving guy? I believe so."