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UFC 194: Can Jose Aldo & Conor McGregor Catch Lightning in a Bottle Twice

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 19 Aug 2015

So now we know.December 12 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. That will be the time and place for Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo to finallyknock on wood settle the championship blood feud that has dominated the featherweight landscape and captivated fans since the UFC announced it in January.This time, everybody just needs to stay healthy.Did we already say knock on wood'Best do it again, just to be sure.The buildup to the first intended meeting between Aldo and McGregor was massive and insane, then largely ruined when Aldo pulled out with a broken rib just 12 days before the bout. McGregor still showed up and defeated short-notice replacement Chad Mendes for an interim title at an event MMA Fighting.com's Dave Meltzer estimatedsold more than 800,000 pay-per-view buys even without the actual champion on the card.The do-overnow scheduled for UFC 194is as essential a fight as the UFC has ever booked. Due to McGregors possession of that interim belt it also feels, at least at this moment, like it could be even bigger than the ill-fated original.The question is: How to make sure it stays that way'Nearly four months still have to pass before Aldo and McGregor get locked in a cage togetherand we wont be able to truly breathe easy until they do. If this fights first misfire taught us anything, its that things can still fall apart right up to the 11th hour.Prior to UFC 189, the fight company pulled out all stops promoting Aldo vs. McGregor. It sent both fighters on a highly publicized world tour. It produced numerous documentary films and bankrolled one visually stunning, big-budget commercial that felt a world away from anything the UFC had done before. It even gave the 145-pounders top billing over Robbie Lawlers welterweight title fight with Rory MacDonald.It cant do all that again.Can it'Should it'Early reports indicate the organization may try. We already know Aldo-McGregor will take the UFC 194 headliner spot while Chris Weidmans middleweight defense against Luke Rockhold gets relegated to the co-main event. And while a second 12-day world tour doesnt appear in the offing, UFC President Dana White has promised he and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta will make sure this fight card feels bigger than UFC 189.Me and Lorenzo have already talked about it, White said, via MMAFighting.coms Marc Raimondi. We're gonna spend even more money than we did this time. We've gotta try to top the last commercial and all that s--t."Mission impossible' Maybe, maybe not.Its early yet, but so far this bout feels as though its inspiring a little less enthusiasm than the first time around. Aside from some scuttlebutt about possible venue changes, the official announcement of the date and location stirred precious little buzz.At UFC 189, Aldo vs. McGregor felt larger than life. As part of UFC 194, it merely feels like another fight on what figures to be an overall stellar card.Maybe people havent gone gaga for it only because we knew it was coming. No reason to get excited about breaking news we guessed would happen the moment Aldo got injured two months ago.Or maybe, having been burned once by the oft-injured champion, people are taking a wait-and-see approach. Nobody relishes the thought of getting their hopes up only to be burned again.Then again, perhaps the slightly reduced fanfare is a sign of something bigger. The sequel is almost never as good as the original, after all, even when the original didn't make it off the launch pad. MMA fans are no doubt still hyped to finally see this matchup, but it remains to be seen if mainstream media and casual viewers will buy in again.Given the full-scale madness of the first wave of hype, you couldnt blame some observers if the thought of doing it all over again feels a bit less than. If we spend the next few months watching Aldo and McGregor reprise those exact roles, it could feel like a poor photocopy of the original.It might actually start to be somewhat tiresome, and nobody wants that leading up to this most anticipated fight.Perhaps the most interesting task, then, will fall to the UFCs PR and marketing departments, who will have to figure a way to stage another long and contentious promotional push without it coming off like a less novel version of the first.Certainly McGregor and Aldo have an odd kind of chemistry together. McGregors nonstop, over-the-top antics are the perfect foil for Aldos cold burn. By the time their first world tour reached its climax in Dublin in March, McGregor was having the time of his life. Meanwhile, Aldo appeared to be stoically plotting his murder.There were some truly iconic momentsMcGregor grabbing Aldos belt off the dais will live on highlight reels foreveras things built more or less organically to a boil. Toward the end, however, the whole thing started to feel a bit repetitive, a bit contrived.And that was just the first showing.Getting McGregor and Aldos special brand of lightning back in the bottle for the redux will be a fascinating challenge.Obviously, the principals will do everything they can to cooperate. Aldo and McGregor appear to legitimately despise each other so itll be no trouble at all getting them at each others throats again, if thats what the organization wants to do. Basically, just put them in the same room together and let the cameras roll.In this case, however, I wonder if a slightly lighter touch is whats required. Subtlety has never been the UFCs strong suit, and its never been a particularly tried-and-true method of selling fights. But do people really want to see a firework show after a firework show'Will that only have a counterproductive effect, making us feel like Aldo and McGregor are being crammed down our throats'Or will the five-month delay between the first date and the second be enough to make their bad blood feel fresh all over again'Does McGregor have any more tricks up his custom-tailored sleeve'And this time can Aldo actually make it to fight night in one piece'All these questions seem valid as the thunder and lightning start to build around this fight all over again.
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