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The End of McGregor?

Apologies for the clickbait-y title, but it’s a fair question: was UFC196 the end of Conor McGregor?

If you missed it, McGregor, scheduled initially to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the UFC Lightweight belt at UFC 196, instead fought Nate Diaz at the Welterweight level. For people who don’t know much about competitive fighting, moving up one weight-class is one thing, moving up two is insane; McGregor is no Sakuraba. Now while McGregor’s natural/”walking  around” weight is nearer to the Welterweight limits than the Featherweight he’s champion of, he’s not used to fighting someone as big as(if not bigger than) him. Diaz, a boxer like McGregor (though with some wrestling skill), had very little time to prepare for this fight. Although apparently training for a triathlon, Diaz couldn’t be prepared for a long fight, nor the mental sparring beforehand. A contest similar to McGregor’s previous fight, his 13 second victory over Jose Aldo, looked to be on the cards.

Conor McGregor is a gimmick. I don’t mean that in the way that pogs or beyblades were gimmicks, but more in the way of a professional wrestler has a gimmick: Roddy Piper isn’t from Scotland, Ted DiBiase is far from the million dollar man, Hulk Hogan isn’t an all American hero (well, not for all of America anyway). These are all gimmicks, a routine or persona used to get people to pay for the show, buy the t-shirts and travel to Los Vegas from Roscommon. I’m not saying McGregor isn’t putting it on, that it’s just an act, but I am saying that his gimmick is him turned up to 11. And that was his downfall. The biggest thing before the fight in the media wasn’t “is Diaz ready?” or “can McGregor fight at Welterweight?” but “hah, look at McGregor mock Diaz! Sure isn’t it gas?” Even in the fight itself, McGregor had no guard up, threw wheelkick after wheelkick even though they had no hope of landing, and even threw his arms down and smirked at Diaz, daring him to take a free shot. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this gimmick…as long as you win.

The famous line from McGregor: “We’re not here to take part, We’re here to take over” encapsulates the gimmick. It’s probably something the men’s football team could probably learn from. McGregor isn’t fighting just to fight, to have a laugh and hopefully, maybe do well; he’s there to win. And that’s the problem with the gimmick, you can only take it so far, and you have to take it slowly. Probably buoyed by his record-win against Aldo, McGregor got too cocky and challenged someone bigger & stronger than him. His punches, he admitted in the post-fight press conference, that would have felled a smaller man did little damage; his left hooks, normally connecting with little effort, were barely landing. The myth of the flawless McGregor was dead and everyone knew it…except Conor. If you pause the fight just right you can pinpoint the moment he realises that it could all be over: it’s just before the end, when he tries a take-down on Diaz. And gets choked out.

With most fighters this wouldn’t be the end of the world; even with Ronda Rousey, that loss to Holm wasn’t the end; in fact a rematch at UFC 200 could be the biggest draw in MMA history (even without the belt). McGregor’s a different story; the way he’s talked himself up, the way he works, the way he draws money…all depends on the swagger, on the gimmick, and in is gimmick there is no going back. He’s just admitted that he can destroy anyone in his own weight-class, so what’s the point of that for McGregor? In the scenarios he’s set up that’s running away from Diaz, Dos Anjos and the Lightweight/Welterweight challenge.

The answer to the question “Is this the end of McGregor?” is a decisive “no,” really. However, there’s probably only one loss, one fight left in the aura of Conor. After his loss to Diaz it’s hard to justify a title-match with Dos Anjos, even though this was the original scheduled fight. A rematch with Diaz is probably the logical place to go, but surely that fight must also be at the Welterweight level. The other idea is McGregor defending his Featherweight belt, but there’s no one at that weight-class that could really draw well with McGregor, and even then many question whether Conor will ever cut the 20/30 lbs to fight at Featherweight again.

If I were a gambling man I would say the next time we see McGregor will be a rematch with Diaz, possibly at UFC 200 in July. If McGregor loses again then the gimmick is truly dead and the interest of the casual fan in Ireland will be dead. Then again, McGregor seemed resigned to the fact he will defend his Featherweight title, likely against Frankie Edgar.

UFC 196 Results:
Prelims:
Teruto Ishihara def. Julian Erosa (Featherweight, KO in 0:34)
Jason Saggo def. Justin Salas (Lightweight, TKO, 4:31)
Diego Sanchez def. Jim Miller (Lightweight, Unanimous Decision, 5:00)
Darren Elkins def. Chas Skelly (Featherweight, Unanimous Decision, 5:00)
Vitor Miranda def. Marcelo Guimarães (Middleweight, TKO, 1:09)
Nordine Taleb def. Erick Silva (Welterweight, KO, 1:34)
Siyar Bahadurzada def. Brandon Thatch (Welterweight, Submission, 4:11)
Main Card:
Amanda Nunes def. Valentina Shevchenko (Women’s Bantamweight, Unanimous Decision, 5:00)
Corey Anderson def. Tom Lawlor (Light Heavyweight, Unanimous Decision, 5:00)
Ilir Latifi def. Gian Villante (Light Heavyweight, Unanimous Decision, 5:00)
Miesha Tate def. Holly Holm (c) (Women’s Bantamweight, Tech. Submission, 3:30) (New Champion)
Nate Diaz def. Conor McGregor (Welterweight, Submission, 4:12)