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With Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo as its main draw, UFC 194 is bound to be stellar.

By Bryan Pol
Despite the enormity and promise of the long-awaited Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao bout in May of this year, the fight, which went the distance and garnered a record 4.4 million pay-per-view purchases, was a disappointment and relative borefest.  Pacquiao reportedly fought with a bum shoulder, and Mayweather fought the Filipino to a defensive standstill, dancing about the ring and “winning” in a unanimous decision.

There was no such disappointment at UFC 189 despite the change in the card for the main title bout.  Irishman Conor McGregor, heading into the match at 17-2 all-time in MMA bouts, 6-0 in the UFC, was expected to face Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Championship, only to have Aldo bow out of the fight in light of a reported rib injury sustained in training.  He was later replaced by former All-American wrestler Chad Mendes, transforming the bout into a UFC Interim Featherweight Championship fight.

Regardless of the change, the card drew an astounding $7.2 million at the gate, a new United States record for a live mixed martial arts batch of matches.  Even 10,000 were in attendance for UFC 189’s weigh-in, a testament to the sport’s drawing potential.

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If the post-match interviews were any indication, the McGregor/Mendes fight was nothing short of electrifying.  McGregor was brought to the ground several times by the grapple-minded Mendes, who held a major advantage well into the fight’s second round, but McGregor scored a TKO with three seconds to spare in the round, rising from the mat to land a powerful and deadly left hook, dropping Mendes to the floor and winning McGregor the UFC Interim Featherweight Championship.

McGregor’s crowd support, bolstered by droves of Irish-Americans roused before the match by a stirring rendition of Sinead O’Connor singing “The Foggy Dew,” outnumbered Mendes’s backing by a long shot, needing no Denzel Washington, Tom Brady, or Jimmy Kimmel, all present for Mayweather/Pacquiao, to buttress the fans in support of a tremendous and compelling package of fights that blows professional boxing out of the proverbial water fight after fight at the UFC level.

Although it is three cards and four months away, there remains outrageous anticipation for UFC 194, which will feature Conor McGregor getting his chance to fight Jose Aldo once and for all for the bragging rights to an undisputed UFC Featherweight Championship; that is, if Aldo does not bow out of a title defense bout for an unprecedented six times due to injury again come December.

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While the card is set for December 12, there is no permanent venue in place for UFC 194 (UFC’s website tentatively has the event taking place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena), but commissioner Dana White has his sights set high:  AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, a Super Bowl, and NCAA’s most recent foray into a playoff system.

While UFC 189 pulled 1 million in pay-per-view buys, the largest crowd ever to witness a live UFC card was 55,724, set in 2011 with UFC 129 at Toronto’s Roger Centre.  Should White somehow land AT&T Stadium as UFC 194’s venue, the stadium, which seats 80,000 at full capacity (which only accounts for permanent stadium seats, not the temporary seats that would be set up on the floor around the Octagon), would only need to be three-quarters sold to set the UFC record for live attendance, which is not entirely out of the realm of possibility given the spike in the sport’s following.

Ever the braggart, McGregor promises hype no matter who he is facing, and by stating that Aldo’s prayers “went unanswered” at the news of UFC 194’s title bout, UFC and its fans are likely to benefit from a series of fights that would put the sport into the stratosphere, especially if AT&T Stadium becomes the venue and Conor McGregor delivers on his first undisputed title bout victory.

UPDATE:  ESPN.com reports that UFC 194 will, in fact, take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Vegas, although MMA Junkie further shares some exciting prospects:  despite the site reporting (on August 3) of the possibility of AT&T Stadium as a UFC 194 venue, it also speaks of a potential super card featuring a Ronda Rousey bout alongside McGregor/Aldo.  Rousey, when interviewed about the prospect, told FOX Sports 1, “I’d like to be on the Aldo-McGregor card, if possible – that would be really cool.  But it’s up to the UFC.”  Should a Rousey fight happen at what is already slated to be a massive card at UFC 194, the company and sport could go into absolute overdrive.

And while a Rousey/Miesha Tate is merely a rumor at this point, UFC 194 still gets a monster draw in Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold fight as a lead-in to McGregor/Aldo, according to The Washington Post.

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