With Dana White confirming that Conor McGregor won’t be fighting at UFC 200, the promotion are now scrambling to find major new fights to maintain the buzz surrounding this historic event in Las Vegas on July 9th, but what options do they have left?
Let’s be honest, replacing a fighter of McGregor’s magnitude will be extremely difficult for the promotion as only Ronda Rousey can compete with him in terms of star power and ability to sell pay-per-views. Unfortunately for the UFC it seems unlikely that she would be willing to step in at this stage, as she has movie commitments and doesn’t want to return until the tail-end of the year – likely at another blockbuster event, UFC 205 in New York City.
At this stage the best option available to the promotion from their current roster of fighters would be to headline UFC 200 with the light-heavyweight title rematch between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier which was originally supposed to go down this very weekend, but was scrapped after ‘DC’ suffered a foot injury.
Of course that would only work if Jones defeats his late notice replacement Ovince S. Preux this weekend at UFC 197 and emerges unscathed, but if that was the case then it would be a solid option and should be relatively easy to put together.
If for any reason that doesn’t work out then perhaps welterweight champion Robbie Lawler could be drafted in to save the day. Dana White recently stated that they expected him to defend his title at either UFC 201 or UFC 202, so it wouldn’t appear to be too difficult to have him move a little further forward in the schedule, though an intended fight with Tyron Woodley lacks the kind of punch needed to front such a big show.
White has already stated that they are now seeking a new opponent for McGregor’s original opponent Nate Diaz, who was already training to fight the Irish superstar at welterweight, so Lawler Vs Diaz would then be a possibility, though the Stockton native had previously indicated that he felt that was a fight better suited to his older brother Nick.
Georges St. Pierre has recently given strong indications that he may return to the UFC, confirming that he is in talks with the promotion, and he would be the ideal replacement to replace McGregor as he was the sport’s biggest star prior to his decision to vacate the 170lb title in late 2013.
GSP Vs Diaz or Lawler would be great fights, but like Rousey, the general feeling is that UFC 200 is probably a little too close for comfort for the Canadian star, and a return to action later in the year seems more likely.
A final option the UFC could consider is pairing Diaz up against current lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. RDA had just been announced as headlining UFC Fight Night 90 versus Eddie Alvarez, but that takes place only two nights before UFC 200, so in dire circumstances they could re-shuffle their schedule to put together this higher profile match-up.
Of course, the very best option would be for the UFC to work behind the scenes to fix their newly fractured relationship with Conor Mcgregor and bring him back on-board. If that happened then the level of publicity that’s been generated in the past day alone would help make UFC 200 even bigger than ever, but only time will tell if that’s a realistic possibility.