Conor McGregor Needed To Lose

Conor McGregor Needed To Lose
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Conor McGregor is one of my favourite fighters. He lost in devastating fashion on Saturday night, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’m not a McGregor hater. I’m not laughing because the Irish motormouth, more giant golden wristwatch than man, finally flew too close to the sun. I know a lot of people are, but I’m happy for a different reason. I think McGregor — as a fighter and as a person — needed this loss. I think it’s better for the UFC that things turned out this way, as well.

The Diaz fight was supposed to be a stepping stone, but it ended up being a culmination. After 70kg champion Rafael dos Anjos dropped out of his fight against McGregor (the 66kg champion) with a foot injury, McGregor decided to fight Diaz at 77kg on two week’s notice.

For most UFC fighters, this kind of thing is unheard of. When fighters are competing for championship belts or close to scoring title shots, they tend to get exceptionally cautious. If an opponent pulls out of a fight with an injury, they will drop out of the fight and wait instead of taking on a different opponent, making the event they were supposed to be part of significantly less spectacular. It’s understandable (Why risk throwing away everything to fight a guy you didn’t even train for?), but it kinda sucks.

McGregor never did that. On three different occasions, he had opponents drop out because their fickle flesh rebelled against them, and he fought anyway, risking bigger prizes each time. If he’d lost to Chad Mendes last summer, his colossally hyped fight with then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo would have gone down the gilded Irish toilet.

He fought anyway, and it was edge-of-your-seat exciting. The stakes were through the goddamn roof. McGregor was fighting the type of guy seemingly tailor-made to nullify his style. But, after withstanding a hellacious elbow onslaught, McGregor rallied and punched Mendes’ head off. In that moment, the MMA world collectively shit itself. That’s the story of McGregor’s brash ambition in general: you may not like the guy’s personality, but you can’t deny the excitement surrounding his actions.

Walking such a high-risk, high-reward path, McGregor was bound to lose eventually. It seems like he knew it, too. After the fight, he posted the following message to Instagram:

“I stormed in and put it all on the line. I took a shot and missed. I will never apologise for taking a shot. Shit happens. I’ll take this loss like a man. I will not shy away from it. I will not change who I am. If another champion goes up 2 weights let me know. If your tired of me talking money, take a nap. I’ll still be here when you wake up with the highest PPV and the gate. Still talking multi 7’s.”

“I’ve been here many times in my life in some form or another. I’ll eat it all and come back stronger. Aldo you are a pussy. Dos anjos you are a pussy. When the history books are written, I showed up. You showed up on Twitter. To the fans! Never ever shy away from challenges. Never run from adversity. Face yourself head on. Nate I will see you again.”

I’m glad he’s accepting his defeat as a natural consequence of his talk-all-the-trash, take-all-the-fights approach — as something to learn from. I’m even gladder that he doesn’t seem interested in taking a different tact from this point forward. One loss isn’t the end of the world when you’re at the championship level in MMA, but so many champions and almost-champions treat it like it is. McGregor and Diaz balked at that idea, and they benefited handsomely.

It doesn’t hurt that McGregor walked away with the UFC’s highest-ever disclosed paycheck in the process. I would hope, in fact, that it serves as a lesson to other champions: if you take risks other fighters haven’t and, er, have more than a cardboard cutout of moldy bread for a personality, you’ll make bank. Win or lose, up to a point. There’s something to be said for strategy and preparation, but when your fights get called-off almost as much as they happen, you might be going overboard. I’m not saying everybody should be Conor McGregor (that would be obnoxious as all hell), but I’m saying they could stand to go out on a limb more. Sometimes it’s good to be the tortoise, but there’s a reason the hare was the guy everybody paid attention to. Each time McGregor did it, his stock went up, and so did his bargaining power with UFC brass.

The lesson here? UFC champs can do a crazy thing, fail, and not have all their stock go out the window. Sideline-sitting doesn’t have to be the status quo. To be honest, McGregor stacked the deck perfectly here. He’s still champion in another weight class, and he can chalk this loss up to weight-related issues, unexpected challenges not even “Mystic Mac” could’ve predicted. And, on some level, we have to believe him, because he might not be wrong. He sure did look good in that first round, and if he modified his strategy, he might’ve been able to put a bloody, winded Diaz down for the count.

That, however, brings us to the other reason McGregor’s loss is a good thing: He needs to learn how to overcome adversity in fights, and not just by doing his usual thing (pressuring opponents with endless full-power punches) harder than before. Conor McGregor fought a pretty fucking stupid fight against Diaz, and it cost him.

The first round of the match seemed like business as usual. Despite fighting up two whole weight classes (McGregor is the 66kg champion; due to injury shenanigans, he ended up taking a last-second fight at 170), McGregor pummelled opponent Nate Diaz’s head like a basketball made of beef jerky and scar tissue. “Mystic Mac” had predicted he’d KO Diaz at the end of round one. Mid-way through the round, he seemed well on his way. McGregor ate a decent number of shots himself, but pressured and moved better than ever before. The round ended with Diaz looking like a rapidly rotting strawberry, but there was just one problem: he was still on his feet.

In round two, everything changed. McGregor started to slow, visibly tired from unloading everything he had in the first. Diaz landed more and more, leading with a jab so stiff that it looked like McGregor was running into an oak branch, until he wobbled McGregor and left him leaping for a desperate, ugly takedown. Diaz easily stuffed it and took McGregor on a ride to Submission City, where he joined Holly Holm in somberly remembering that jiu-jitsu is no fucking joke. It was a wild, deceptively technical brawl that ended with a vicious choke. It was, in other words, a Diaz fight. McGregor was, frankly, stupid to fight a Diaz fight against Diaz. He should have known that.

But he didn’t, because he bought into his own hype. He said it himself after the fight: he thought his vaunted power would be enough to win the day despite a) a huge weight differential from his usual stomping grounds, and b) Nate Diaz’s chin, one of the best in the UFC. That’s a ridiculous presupposition to make. On top of that, unlike his better-known brother Nick, Nate Diaz is a rangy counter-puncher, not an all-in knuckle-sandwich-devouring brawler. In hindsight, it seems almost obvious that McGregor was cruisin’ for a losin’ (that doesn’t really work, does it). He dug his own grave and wrote out the exact cause of death for the obituary.

There’s a tendency in MMA to look at fighters on fiery hot streaks and say, “Oh, they will win it somehow,” even when there are a million plausible ways they could lose. People ignore gaping holes in fighters’ games because, well, they just keep winning. But that’s a fallacy — a self-perpetuating one, no less.

McGregor is, quite clearly, not unbeatable, and he needed to learn that just as much as fans did. Now he can go back, reevaluate, and learn how to properly fight against bigger dudes. He can shore up his weaknesses instead of just shining up his strengths. Heck, maybe he’ll even consider countering a little more, using the skills that got him to the UFC in the first place, rather than slowly destroying himself. And, in the meantime, he can finally go defend his goddamn featherweight belt, unfreezing that division from Han-Solo-esque stasis. Everybody wins. Well, except whoever ends up losing.

Image credit: Getty.


    • Ahhh no. RDA would have been on his ass in the first round. Game over.

      How the hell Nate stayed upright was beyond me, that man is made of stone.

      At the end of the day, Conor is not a brilliant or exceptional martial artist and his ground work is sufficient not great. With those limitations it was only a matter of time until someone beat him.

      • It’s all speculation really, but I reckon RDA woulda smoked him, the leprechauns power can’t hang in WW

        • RDA is a lightweight fighter, not welterweight. 15 pound difference. I think with the additional water loss due to cutting weight (especially in the brain), McGregor definitely has a chance to knock out lightweight fighters at 155 pounds.

          Additionally, Jeremy Stephens knocked out RDA, and I would hazard that McGregor has as much KO ability as Stephens. To say that McGregor is not a brilliant or exceptional martial artist is just letting dislike cloud your judgement. And his sweep at the end of first round was pretty damn good.

  • The undercard fights were boring as hell (except the first female fight) but Holm/Tate and Diaz/Mcgregor more than made up for it. Miesha winning makes their division so much more exciting because you now have Ronda, Holm and Tate all a chance to take the title rather than just Rousey or Holm dominating.

  • Just quietly, he’s not actually an MMA Jesus. He’s not special. The rules of fighting apply to him.

    In fact, his MMA game isn’t particularly special at all. His striking is great but he relies too heavily on his power and once it was gone he was never going to win. He doesn’t have elite auxiliary skills, he isn’t unheard of tough, his chin isn’t unbreakable….

    He’s going to be a well-protected, well marketed also-ran outside of the FW division where he can impose his power on most of the roster.

    Anyone who honestly thought he was special and was going to dominate at LW or WW has no short-term memory or grasp of reality. Nobody has ever dominated in MMA with a skillset as limited as Conor’s, you run into fighters who are either unheard of tough (notice how often main events go the distance) or they shut your game down and exploit your limited skillset (see Showtime Pettis, who I might add is many times more dangerous on the ground than Conor).

  • Dam, cannot wait to see this fight! Was spoiled the second I walked into work the next day lol Although might be worth taking the result out of the title, at least give those who haven’t seen it a chance to scroll on by

    Whilst I love colin, he did need to lose, just like rousey. I can’t wait to see how they both bounce back though, as we should see better fighters in the both of them

    • It’s a great fight.

      I give Conor a lot of sh*t because I don’t think his skillset matches his mouth, but he’s an absolute animal in the cage and the skills he does have are probably the most entertaining in MMA. I think hell will freeze over before I voluntarily miss a McGregor fight, he comes forwards with confidence and aggression from the first bell.

      Ditto Nate, dude is tough as nails with an entertaining style and tremendous skills.

  • I still dont understand how scummy people beating the shit out of each other for money is in any way ‘otaku’.

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