Inactivity has caught up to Conor McGregor.
Absent from the MMA scene since his historic win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 on Nov. 12, 2016, the former two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder has surrendered much of the equity he built during his gold rush at 145 and 155 pounds. McGregor’s detour into the boxing world for a blockbuster showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August brought him untold millions in prize money but also created doubt as to whether or not he would ever return to mixed martial arts. He has done nothing in the 10 months since -- unless one considers his dolly attack on a charter bus full of fighters at UFC 223 a publicity stunt to keep his name in the headlines -- to alleviate the uncertainty surrounding his future in the cage. As a result, McGregor exits the pound-for-pound stage after an extended stay.
The “Notorious” Irishman was not the only departure. Former lightweight champion turned welterweight contender Rafael dos Anjos fell short in his bid to capture interim gold at 170 pounds, losing a unanimous decision to Colby Covington in the UFC 225 co-headliner on June 9. The defeat snapped a three-fight winning streak that saw the Brazilian best Tarec Saffiedine, Neil Magny and Robbie Lawler in succession.
In the absence of McGregor and dos Anjos, reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and top bantamweight contender Cody Garbrandt move in to fill the vacancies. Nurmagomedov laid claim to the 155-pound title with a five-round unanimous decision over Al Iaquinta in the UFC 223 main event on April 7. The victory pushed the Dagestani brute’s mark to 10-0 inside the Octagon and 26-0 overall. Garbrandt, meanwhile, will rematch T.J. Dillashaw for the undisputed bantamweight championship atop UFC 227 on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles. Dillashaw owns a 1-0 lead in their head-to-head series, having stopped Garbrandt on second-round punches at UFC 217 in November.
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1. Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1)If you are going to break one of Anderson Silva’s marks, you ought to do it in style. This certainly was not lost on Johnson at UFC 216. In a title defense the world knew he would win, “Mighty Mouse” dominated challenger Ray Borg before hitting a breathtaking slam-into-armbar sequence. With the victory, Johnson earned his 11th straight UFC title defense, surpassing “The Spider’s” record of 10. After a targeted superfight against T.J. Dillashaw failed to become a reality, Johnson has been scheduled for his next title defense in a rematch against Henry Cejudo at UFC 227 in August.
2. Max Holloway (19-3)Holloway briefly had a chance to join Conor McGregor as the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s only simultaneous two-division champions when he stepped in on six days’ notice to replace Tony Ferguson against Khabib Nurmagomedov in a lightweight title bout UFC 223. Alas, the weight cut proved too difficult, as “Blessed” was deemed medically unfit to compete by the New York State Athletic Commission one day before the event. Instead, Holloway’s next appearance will come in a 145-pound title defense against No. 1 contender Brian Ortega at UFC 226 on July 7.
3. Daniel Cormier (20-1)Cormier’s latest UFC title bout was just another night at the office for “DC.” He took the best shots surging challenger Volkan Oezdemir had to offer at UFC 220 in Boston, then pounded out the Swiss fighter in seven minutes. With another championship win to his credit, Cormier has stated he is now targeting a March 2019 retirement and does not want to fight beyond the age of 40. Before that happens, Cormier will return to the heavyweight division to challenge reigning titlist Stipe Miocic in a champion-versus-champion superfight at UFC 226 on July 7.
4. Tyron Woodley (18-3-1)Woodley already has three successful welterweight title defenses under his belt and recently said he “would bet the house” that his fourth would come against Nate Diaz this summer. However, just as he did when Woodley referenced a matchup with Diaz in December, UFC President Dana White shot down that notion, claiming the champion “couldn’t be more full of s---.” A unification bout with newly minted interim titleholder Colby Covington figures to be next in line once “The Chosen One” is completely healed from shoulder surgery.
5. Stipe Miocic (18-2)Miocic made history at UFC 220 in Boston, where he became the first heavyweight champion to defend his title three consecutive times by positively crushing acclaimed challenger Francis Ngannou over 25 minutes. In his next assignment, the Ohio native will look to further establish himself as one of the sport’s great heavyweights when he puts his belt on the line against 205-pound king Daniel Cormier in a champion-versus-champion blockbuster at UFC 226 on July 7.
6. Robert Whittaker (20-4)After nearly a year away from competition, Whittaker returned to the Octagon and delivered an instant classic in a rematch against Yoel Romero in the UFC 225 headliner. The Australian fighter survived knockdowns in the third and fifth rounds to hold off “The Soldier of God” -- a man he also defeated for interim 185-pound gold at UFC 213 -- for a narrow split decision triumph. Whittaker has won nine consecutive fights, but due to Romero missing weight, his first official title defense is still pending.
7. Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0)It felt basically inevitable, but that did not make it any less impressive. Nurmagomedov did what he does best in the UFC 223 headliner, as he dominated short-notice opponent Al Iaquinta for five rounds to claim the undisputed lightweight title. Any number of interesting options could await “The Eagle” for his first championship defense, but it will not come until November or December -- the months the Dagestani fighter has targeted for his Octagon return.
8. Tony Ferguson (23-3)When it comes to freak injuries, Ferguson’s is hard to top. “El Cucuy” tore a ligament in his knee while fulfilling media obligations less than a week before a highly anticipated clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov. As a result, the cursed fight was canceled for a fourth time. Still, Ferguson has won 10 straight fights, and according to UFC President Dana White, he remains the No. 1 contender at 155 pounds. However, the interim title he claimed with a triangle choke submission on Kevin Lee in October has been dissolved by the organization.
9. T.J. Dillashaw (15-3)Dillashaw finally got his showdown with former Team Alpha Male training partner Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217 and overcame nearly being stopped in the opening round to knock out “No Love” and take back the bantamweight title. After a brief flirtation with a superfight against reigning flyweight king Demetrious Johnson, Dillashaw will instead settle for a return date with Garbrandt at UFC 227 on Aug. 4 in Los Angeles.
10. Cody Garbrandt (11-1)Through five minutes of his UFC 217 co-main event on Nov. 4, Garbrandt looked well on his way to both defending his UFC bantamweight title for the first time and knocking out former teammate turned rival T.J. Dillashaw. Then Round 2 came and Dillashaw cracked him with a right hand, pounded him out, took his title and handed him the first loss of his career. The good news for “No Love” is that he will get to run it back against Dillashaw at UFC 227 in August.
Sherdog’s divisional and pound-for-pound rankings are compiled by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, Jesse Denis, James Nietering, Eric Stinton, Ben Duffy, Josh Stillman, Nathan Zur, Kevin Wilson, Edward Carbajal, Jason Burgos, Anthony Walker, Tudor Leonte, Mark Raymundo, Jordan Colbert, Jordan Breen and Joao Baptista.