Say what you like about Conor McGregor, but he is a very clever man. He was and still is a man with a plan. From claiming welfare seven years ago to earning close to $100 million dollars for one fight, he has been precise with all his focus and decisions regarding the pathway in his career. It was all mapped out, a clear vision.
Saturday nights fight against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone seen McGregor at his most brilliant best. Cerrone was disposed of with only 40 seconds on the clock with a quick succession of clean strikes. Immediately following the fight, Cerrone was interviewed by UFC commentator Joe Rogan and he was the first to acknowledge the quality of McGregor’s performance. “Oh man, he got me with his elbows right away and distorted the shit out of me and then head-kicked me. What a great game plan he had, man it was awesome,”
But no-one ever really doubted McGregor’s talent or what he could achieve inside the octagon. What was becoming blantently obvious over the last few years was that once Conor had started to pull in decent money the focus of becoming a UFC sporting legend and being financially successful was quickly turning into a single goal, just making money…..tonnes of money.
Becoming a two weight champion showed the ability and class McGregor possesses and the hard work that was put in. Then a change of direction. Was the money and the fame getting to him? Was he believing his own hype? A career that was always in control was starting wobble. He had lost track of discipline. A series of unnecessary events over a couple of years hi-lighted this. Two court appearances for speeding, the incident at bellator 187 where McGregor jumped into the octogon at the end of teammate Charlie Ward’s fight when not official cornerman and charged at referee Marc Goddard, the bus attack at UFC 223 and a dublin pub assault. These incidents were not going down well with the home fan base that previously adored his every move.
It was a stroke of genius getting Floyd Mayweather on board to put on the greatest none event the sporting world had ever seen. It was intriguing but a let down of seismic proportions. A financial windfall that showed off his excellent marketing skills. His supporters were left disappointed with the amount time away from the octagon and when he was defeated by Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedev they felt he was losing his credibility as one of the greats of the sport. The losing wasn’t hurting people, it was clear Conor wasn’t giving it his all. That hurt, that was disappointing. To see a potential legend, a talent start to lose his way. The first Diaz fight was acceptable as we weren’t totally aware at that stage of his loss of focus. When he agreed to a rematch and totally focused on a well thought out gameplan and followed it through, well…. it showed that he could achieve anything he put his mind to. But the Khabib fight showed his lack of preperation or want or desire. This wasn’t the real Conor McGregor.
His Irish supporters knew that he hadn’t been giving his all. And irish people generally just ask for that, do your best and we will be proud of you. Have a talent, then use it. With all that was going on many couldnt feel like they could support him with the messages he was sending out. McGregor couldn’t see the woods for the trees. The Irish people were proud of him. They followed his career, supported him, cheered him on and wanted to see him take on the world. He was someone that alot of people looked up to. A role models to hundreds of thousands of kids. He lost sight of this, blinded by the dollar. He had built up the world of MMA and the UFC with all his positive characteristics and slowly he was letting that slip away. And worse, he was losing the respect of his people.
But the build up to the ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone fight was different. More low key. Not much from the fighters. Not as much hype around from the fans of the sport or McGregor’s supporters, which has felt like it’s been diminishing. And there was something nice about that. The press conference’s and weigh in were walk in, shake hands and pose for a picture. A far cry from the over the top (although funny at times) Mayweather trash talk. McGregor made his name in the UFC from being quick witted and knowing how to wind the opponent up. We loved that. By the Mayweather fight it had gone a bit to far and was not as enjoyable as once before. So the McGregor vs Cerrone press conference’s was a badly needed sign of humility and respect. Although we do hope he brings back the bit of that banter we all love.
It was after the fight while chatting to the media that we got a positive sign that he had reflected on his couple of year’s and that he had slightly derailed himself. When asked from a journalist “Obviously something has changed between preperation for this fight and the Khabib fight”.
McGregor replied ” Yes just my commitment, I wasn’t committed. It was a disrespect to the people who believe in me. It feels like the world lights up when I make the walk, everyone is so invested in it and excited by it and I have got the team behind me and putting (in) there all and I’m taking them away from their family to come up me and then I’m not committed with it, I’ll go training and then I’ll come back and it’s sporadic and it’s on my call and I’ll say hey I want to see you in the gym in 30 mins. I just felt like I disrespected the people who believed in me supported me and that’s what help me recently myself”
McGregor has given every fading fan a chance to get back behind him again. We want to see him as a world champion again. We want to see him go down in UFC history as the best pound for pound fighter there has ever been. We want to see him as the entertainer he is. Will he get paid loads of money, yes! And we are delighted for him. But Irish people care about humility, it’s important to us. And if they feel you don’t think you are better than the rest then they will support you to the end. Hopefully Conor McGregor has become aware of this, gets back to doing what he is best at and we can all focus on enjoying his amazing talent.