This week we were supposed to be basking in the wake of another episode of ‘The Conor McGregor Show’ where in an ideal world ‘The Notorious’ beat Rafael dos Anjos with an outlandish display and walked away being a double-weight world champion. You will know, unless you have been living under a rock, that that did not happen.
Instead, in the latest of a long line of shocks the UFC has thrown up, the Irishman was beaten by Nate Diaz in the most dramatic fashion. Now that the dust has settled on McGregor’s second-round defeat, it seems about right that we now can assess where both he and the organisation go from here.
You could argue that McGregor had nothing to lose by taking this fight on after dos Anjos pulled out of the title fight with a fractured toe. If he wins, he proves he really is able to take on anyone in any weight, but he if loses he can put it down to the fact that he had to jump two divisions to fight a much heavier man. Nevertheless, thanks to supreme confidence in his own ability, McGregor thought he would definitely win, as did many others, after all Diaz had lost three of his previous five fights and was there for the taking.
Despite his loss, McGregor was still breaking records, becoming the first fighter in UFC history to make $1million from one fight. He’s been saying he is the ‘money fight’ in the sport for a long time now and at least he was able to prove it; it wasn’t a bad night of takings for his opponent either as Diaz took home his highest ever purse and is now being lined up for a title fight. This is what a fight against McGregor can do to your career, win or lose, you are thrust into the spotlight.
The Irishman has also single-handedly elevated UFC to new heights. If you want to be picky, the hand he used to do so was his left as he KO’d Jose Aldo, who had been undefeated for a decade, and made the world stand up and believe the hype. In the build-up to that fight back in December, ‘Mystic Mac’ made many predictions, the boldest being that he would get the job done in 4 minutes, or 240 seconds – he needed just 13.
It was the quickest KO in a title fight in the organisation’s history, breaking a record set by Ronda Rousey earlier in the year after she disposed of Cat Zingano in 14 seconds. A phenomenal stat as it is, to have it broken twice in the space of 10 months is astounding and is the kind of feat that has made the UFC a credible outfit in the eyes of the masses.
Outside the world of football, McGregor is arguably the most talked about sportsperson on the planet at the moment, with Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry being the only possible exception. He, along with Rousey, are the easily the breakout stars of the sport over the past 18 months, but you could argue they are the breakout stars of sport as a whole.
Not only are they producing remarkable displays of athleticism, but they are winning fans and gaining attention just because of their enticing personalities. I know people who have taken an interest in the UFC of late purely because of the likes of McGregor and Rousey; people just can’t wait to see what they do next.
MMA is a sport that is often so fast-paced that it is perfect for social media engagement and McGregor has captured it in true spirit with his online persona. He obviously likes to promote his lavish lifestyle with posts of sharp suits and flash cars, but he also offers a unique insight into his training regimes, something that fans relish in seeing.
You could almost fit the whole of the fight against Aldo, that propelled McGregor into superstardom, into a Vine. And that is what people want to be a part of, the whole furore of the next big moment that will no doubt explode on the internet.
Hysteric Twitter users claimed that the UFC was finished after this latest upset, but I believe it is set up perfectly for them now as both their biggest stars, McGregor and Rousey, who herself lost in dramatic style last year, have got to come back and prove themselves, gaining even more attention along the way.
The sport, and the UFC as a brand, are only getting bigger and they have the perfect man in McGregor to be the face that promotes them, albeit a rather bruised one at this moment in time. Despite being ridiculously outspoken, unlike so many other fighters who cause controversy with political views or discriminatory opinions, he just likes to talk about himself. His value is not to be underestimated; amongst the audacious claims that flow out of his mouth as easily as the River Liffey cuts through his home town of Dublin.
Although it was almost distressing to see such a modern sporting icon reduced to tapping out in a bloodied mess, the way he handled defeat in such a humble manner was remarkably comforting from a man so full of himself. He’s claimed he is the best in the game, both in and out of the Octagon – the joy now is that we get to see how he comes back to prove it.