Conor McGregor could have played it safe after taking out longtime featherweight king Jose Aldo.
The Irish sensation didn’t have to move up a weight class to challenge for a second title. He didn’t have to move up another one when Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out due to injury 10 days out from the fight.
But if McGregor played it safe he’d be Floyd Mayweather. McGregor doesn’t hand pick his fights and he doesn’t play it safe, and that’s why the sport’s picture remains bright despite his first UFC loss.
With the Unstoppable season about to kick off at UFC 197 and with all the big fights over the next few months set, the focus now turns to the heavily anticipated UFC 200 on July 9 at the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
McGregor and Holly Holm both lost in their high-stakes bouts at UFC 196, but they both could still be huge parts of the epic show headlining the summer schedule.
Sitting on the shoulder of McGregor still rests the UFC featherweight championship belt, and both Frankie Edgar and Aldo are pushing toward the front of the line to face “The Notorious” in his first title defense. McGregor said he’s likely favoring Aldo, but Edgar is certainly in play and that bout could land at 200.
UFC president Dana White said that brand new women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate will make her first defense against former champion Ronda Rousey later this year. So Holm now is looking at a No. 1 contender fight to get back to the front of the line.
More from UFC 196: Order UFC 196 replay | UFC 196 results | Post-fight bonus recap | Diaz shocks McGregor | Tate wins title | Latifi, Anderson, Nunes win decisions | Prelims had it all | Sanchez, Saggo and Ishihara win early | Backstage interviews: Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor, Miesha Tate, Corey Anderson, Amanda Nunes, Siyar Bahadurzada, Nordine Taleb, Vitor Miranda | Octagon interviews: Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor, Miesha Tate, Diego Sanchez | WATCH: Exclusive GSP interview | Watch the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims here | Picture perfect: Best snaps from Vegas
No. 4-ranked Amanda Nunes looked impressive in her win against Valentina Shevchenko. But she has a loss on her resume to No. 3-ranked Cat Zingano, who hasn’t fought since her 14-second submission loss to Rousey. Those two seem like suitable options for Holm at 200.
Nate Diaz called himself the money fight and he delivered at UFC 196, cashing in for his biggest pay date yet and securing more big ones coming up in his next fights. Diaz could be in play for 200, perhaps even a rematch with lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, who beat Diaz handily when they fought late in 2014.
With all those potential names in the mix, we would surely have one hell of a card on our hands. Throw in UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler who is still looking for his next dancing partner and the show quickly begins to take shape.
Sitting Octagon side at UFC 196, Georges St-Pierre was just trying to watch some fights. But St-Pierre has been rumored to be making his return for months. White has said that he isn’t sure if GSP really wants to come back, but there would be no bigger stage than UFC 200 for the former welterweight king to re-emerge.
Anderson Silva is likely chomping at the bit to get back in there after dropping a close decision to Michael Bisping in London. It doesn’t really matter who you put the legendary Silva up against, it’s a must-watch.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier II is shaping up to be one of the biggest UFC fights ever.
If Jones wins, another potential historic rematch awaits with Alexander Gustafsson, who is also looking for his next fight. Gustafsson recently called out the former champ and both have been eyeing a rematch ever since the Swede gave Jones the toughest test of his career at UFC 165.
There were two huge upsets at UFC 196, but in this sport and in the UFC there are always options. The excitement in 2016 is just starting to build as we move into another momentous year for our sport.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC