The UFC has seen it’s share of character in it’s youthful existence, but has it seen one like Connor Mcgregor? The brash Irishman can be compared to the likes of Chael Sonnen for his boisterous, loud mouth self marketing, as well as his continuous attempts at have verbal stand offs with his opponents and enemies, but does Connor know something we don’t? Are his efforts for MMA domination apart of a calculated plan for fame and legacy? Is he really more clever than he presents himself to be?
So far Mcgregor has had only 4 fights in the UFC, behind his 8 fight win streak elsewhere and in the small period of time the featherweight has become mainstream and his influence has exploded. Not only has he headlined a fight in his own country of Ireland, but he has already been placed in a maincard event where Mcgregor reportedly made $200,000, which included an extra 50k in performance of the night bonuses for his pre-fight prediction of knocking Dustin Poirer out in the 1st round. In the shadows of that bout withdraws a broken Dustin who has had a whopping 11 fights in the UFC, and walked away with a mere $34,000 (via mmafighting.com).
Now, there is no secret that Dana White highlights his favourites quite openly, but what justice does the UFC have for paying over double the amount in wages to a fighter whose a riding on a wave, that could possibly be swooped, versus a reputable veteran? According to Lorenzo Fritita via fox sports, it all comes down to business “At the end of the day, it’s a business,” said Fertitta. “[The] guy can literally drive numbers from an entire country. When Conor fights the entire country of Ireland shuts down. We get like a 60 share of the TV market there. Over 11 percent of the tickets sold in Las Vegas were from Ireland. He moves the needle on Pay-Per-View. He headlined his first event in Ireland, did a $1.4 million gate.”
But the question remains, where does business stand when it comes to the UFC’s clear choices in favouritism? Is there an ethical explanation for that? Thus, perhaps Mcgregor has known this little secret to success all along – perhaps the motives behind his self marketing extravaganza has much more substance than it seems. He recently said on his Twitter account ‘4 fights and I own the game’ – the UFC could be more his pawns than he is them. Now I find it difficult to give the Irishmen that much credit for calculating his plan for success- but what has swayed me is a recent documentary which shows footage of Mcgregor, a much more humbled version in 2008 stating his future in the UFC.
Watch it here at approximately 3:20 mark:
What should also be taken into account is the success fighters like Mcgregor, Dan Hardy, Chael Sonnon and Anderson Silva have had with mental combat. Dan Hardy specifically has made it clear that his pre-fight commentary with most of his opponents, including his title fight with Georges St Pierre was apart of his plan – yet he could break Pierre, although it seems like Mcgregor can. If we analyze Mcgregor’s last 4 fights, each opponent he has fought had in some way or another, succumbed to his mental stamina before their physical stand off. For example, in UFC’s video blog ‘Embedded’, Dustin Poirer openly admits in Episode 3 that he’s never disliked an opponent so much before he fought them. Was this Mcgregor’s foreshadow to a victory? Did he crumble his opponent before he laid his hands on him? As fighting is just as much a mental game, this possibility is absolutely true – it worked seamlessly for Anderson Silva most of his career , of course his talent was the super bonus, but the point stands , mentally opponents fell to their knees before they even swing a fist.
Watch UFC Embedded Episode 3 here:
Another example is Conor’s ultimate drive for future opponents and other enemies within his division. Before his loss to Jose Aldo in UFC 179, Chad Mendes was a victim to Mcgregor’s mind games, not once but twice. One being on his pre fight apperance for AXS Tv where the wrestler expressed his distaste for Mcgregor and was accused of looking past Aldo prior to their fight. As well on a phone appearance on BT sport where the two exchanged careful remarks. This isn’t to say that Mendes didn’t have a wonderful performance against Aldo at 179 due to this, but it is to say that if Conor’s intention was to distract Mendes, he certainly claimed some of his energy. What Mcgregor should be credited for is his consistency, he never let’s his ruthless approach down – at least since he’s gained acclaim. His personality outside of a fight hype situation is interesting as his obsession with ‘movement’ and martial arts does expose his intricate knowledge of himself and the sports essence, but does this intelligence live in the shadow of his enormous media presence?
Of course – many probably wonder when Conor’s rocket will hit a wall, as even in the octagon his performances are entertaining, but have an interesting artificial feeling to them. What I mean by that is he looks to be putting on a performance, not a killing- it has a taste of fragility, in the sense that if the right opponent perseveres him, he may have a rude awakening. Think of some of the best fighters in the world, where do their eyes go? They narrow into a blackened gaze that allows them to focus in on their prey and they unleash. For some reason I do not see this in McGregor, perhaps with time it will come. But with only 4 fights in the UFC, a potential title bout looming around the corner and one of the biggest paycheques to date, maybe he sings worrying about that either. He is certainly paradoxical as a fighter, person and entertainer – but in that sense he has done his job, and proves to be more clever than we think , as we continue to watch in question, awe, hate, love or just wonder.