In hindsight, Conor McGregor’s most up-to-date legacy-building second might have been the worst factor that might have occurred for him.
Twelve months in the past, McGregor was again. “The Infamous” had been sidelined for 14 months, with a humbling loss to rival Khabib Nurmagomedov adopted by a yr of McGregor ending up within the headlines for all of the mistaken causes. Smashing a cellular phone in Miami. Punching a person in an Irish pub. And earlier than all that, an accusation of sexual assault in Dublin, which resurfaced this previous week within the type of a civil declare, together with new alleged details.
McGregor additionally teased a retirement in March 2019 (the second such time he’d performed so), a stunt that didn’t really feel remotely everlasting. It was apparent McGregor wanted one thing massive to regain the religion of the lots, however what?
A second Nurmagomedov battle wasn’t occurring, and a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz was caught in limbo. Ultimately, McGregor was handed a good matchup with the favored Donald Cerrone, an all-time nice who was additionally a non-factor within the contenders’ rankings. Regardless of, McGregor made the a lot of the alternative, blowing Cerrone out of the water in 40 seconds at UFC 246 and restarting the “What is going to Conor do subsequent?” information cycle.
On Saturday at UFC 257, McGregor was again once more, this time getting an opportunity to replay certainly one of his previous hits. What higher solution to present that he was by no means gone than to as soon as extra vanquish Dustin Poirier, a former featherweight rival who now stands as among the finest lightweights on this planet? This was McGregor’s likelihood to say, “The extra issues change, the extra they keep the identical.”
That wasn’t the case, nevertheless. Poirier utterly outclassed McGregor, making sensible use of his wrestling and low kicks in spherical one to put on the previous two-division champ down earlier than flurrying in spherical two and leaving McGregor flat on his again in good place to grow to be the next big meme. McGregor has misplaced earlier than, however for the primary time in his UFC profession, it didn’t simply seem like he’d ran right into a superior opponent or a troublesome fashion matchup; no, it seemed like his finest days had handed.
How did we get right here? Let’s have a look at the Cerrone matchup once more. With respect to “Cowboy,” among the finest to by no means win a UFC title and somebody who might most likely compete till he’s 50 if he needed to, he entered the matchup with McGregor as a possible showcase opponent. Cerrone was coming off of back-to-back lopsided losses to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, and whereas there’s no disgrace in that, it wasn’t anticipated he’d final lengthy towards McGregor both.
The reserving was thought-about such a layup for McGregor that Cerrone needed to undergo the indignity of actually having to respond to critics suggesting that he was going to take a dive for McGregor and the UFC. Cerrone’s ensuing loss solely opened the door for extra criticism, a lot of it coming from talking head pundits which can be barely certified to research rec league soccer, a lot much less the best degree of fight sports activities. However I digress.
It was every part McGregor needed. A highlight-reel win over a recognized property. The prospect to rehabilitate his picture with a respectful buildup and an appreciative opponent. He even hugged Cerrone’s grandmother afterward.
It was too good, and precisely the form of factor that might make one overlook the truth that McGregor’s sport wasn’t any totally different and that Cerrone was his first win since November 2016. Nothing had modified for McGregor aside from the truth that he bit the bullet and signed on for an additional UFC battle.
He was nonetheless a multi-millionaire, nonetheless beloved by numerous followers, nonetheless a shining star in Dana White’s eye whilst their public confrontations turned extra frequent. If this was purported to be the turning of a web page for McGregor, the phrases sounded too acquainted.
If Cerrone was the best man to welcome McGregor again final yr, then Poirier was precisely the mistaken man to welcome him again this yr. “The Diamond” did nothing however sharpen his edges since first preventing McGregor in 2014, transferring as much as the loaded light-weight division and dominating the competitors exterior of a blip towards Michael Johnson. McGregor was a former light-weight titleholder, however his precise achievements at 155 kilos paled compared to Poirier’s.
So when Poirier had his likelihood for revenge, he placed on among the finest performances of his profession whereas McGregor wilted. It seemed precisely like what it was on paper, one fighter who had scraped his solution to an interim title one win at a time versus a fighter who had performed a superb job of maneuvering himself into place to win a second undisputed title. There’s a distinction.
White wasn’t mistaken when he mentioned at Saturday’s post-fight press convention that McGregor has grown complacent. He’s the highest-paid athlete in MMA. He was chilling on a yacht in Abu Dhabi whereas the remainder of the fighters had been whittling away their time at a lodge. He was capable of carry his household with him to Battle Island whereas a fighter like Dan Hooker wouldn’t see his for an additional few weeks on account of strict COVID-19 security measures in his native New Zealand.
Within the grand scheme of issues, there may be merely no consequence to McGregor shedding anymore exterior of a bit public humiliation. And that’s nothing that a number of seven-figure checks can’t repair. How can one keep the sting they as soon as had once they had been actually preventing to place meals on their desk and now have reached the extent of success and luxury that McGregor has? We will’t blame McGregor’s shortcomings utterly on his affluence, as there are many different athletes and fighters (together with Poirier) who’ve solely elevated their video games as their financial institution accounts have elevated. It’s not an excuse. It’s a weak spot, and it’s costing him within the cage.
They are saying that good residing is the most effective revenge. It actually isn’t the most effective motivation. So whereas McGregor may be content material with the unimaginable monetary safety he’s created for himself and his household for generations, he may additionally have to simply accept that his days as a respectable UFC contender are behind him.