Champions jumping weight classes to take big fights isn't a very common thing in the UFC. Anderson Silva did it, BJ Penn did it, Randy Couture did it. After that, pretty much no-one with a title around their waist has been willing to make the jump, at least not until Conor McGregor did at UFC 196. McGregor was supposed to fight Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight title in the PPV's main event, but when dos Anjos went down due to injury, McGregor jumped up in weight again, taking on Nate Diaz at welterweight, 25 lbs above the division where McGregor reigns supreme.
Long story short, McGregor's bid for cross-divisional glory failed. Nate Diaz beat him up and choked him out, and all signs point to McGregor's next fight being at featherweight. So, with one of his biggest stars taking a bad loss from a failed experiment, is Dana White regretting the move? To hear him tell it to Russillo & Kanell on ESPN Radio, no.
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White even went as far as to compare McGregor's actions to another former UFC champ and a big fight the UFC never managed to book (transcript via Fox Sports).
"That's the thing -- nobody wants to do it. GSP would never move up to 185 to fight Anderson Silva. He wouldn't do it," White said when speaking to Russillo and Kanell on Tuesday. "That's what makes Saturday so fun. You know how many times we wanted to do the GSP-Anderson Silva fight? GSP would not do it. Would not do it. Guys don't do that stuff. That's what makes Conor McGregor so unique, so fascinating and so fun.
"For GSP he was moving up one weight class. Conor McGregor jumped up two weight classes."
"Conor McGregor is so much fun in the fight business. Guys don't do that. Guys who are making the money that Conor McGregor makes, has the money in the bank, and all the things that are going on with him, he has a world title, he just decides to jump up two weight classes and fight somebody else."
Hard to say if this is revisionist history or not, but it certainly differs from White's accounts of GSP's willingness to go to 185 in the past.
In 2010, white offered up this opinion on the GSP/Silva fight:
"If it's true [about what Anderson Silva said], if he could cut down to 170, I would look at a GSP fight. I would do it. I don't like the idea of GSP moving up."
"GSP told me straight up, I'll fight him [Anderson] right now. If you guys want to make that fight, make the fight. GSP is not concerned what so ever with fighting Anderson Silva. First, Anderson Silva has a couple guys he needs to beat. He needs to beat Chael Sonnen and probably Vitor Belfort, should Vitor win his next fight. Here's the other problem, Georges St.Pierre is a natural 170 pounder. Anderson Silva not only cuts to 185, he's fought at 205. That's kind of why the fight doesn't make sense to me. But if enough people want to see it, I'll make it."
And in 2011 he even went so far as to say this:
"Georges St-Pierre said he would move to 185 (to fight Silva) and stay at that weight and not go back to 170," White said. "Should (they) win (their next) fights, that fight will probably happen this year."
Maybe there was a lot more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Maybe GSP was really telling Zuffa that he wouldn't move up to fight Anderson the whole time. Maybe now that fighters know Dana White is so enthusiastic about the idea, we'll see a lot more champs jumping divisions for fun fights.