The brash Irishman – with a penchant for the finer things in life – has never shied away from his intentions in this sport. He’s here to take over and make a lot of money doing it.
So what makes Conor McGregor so successful?
McGregor is generally a likable guy with the swagger to match. He walks the walk and talks the talk. He loves his fashion, his fast cars and the celebrity status that comes with it.
The man known as ‘The Notorious’, has undeniable talent, no one doubts that. He’s an aggressive, exciting fighter with power and finesse which resonates well with the fans. What really makes him stand out is his showmanship and psychological warfare he delivers before fights. He thrives on exploiting his opponent’s mental fragility to evoke a reaction, effectively distracting and draining his enemy before the fight. The fact McGregor is a world class fighter is a bonus. His ability to render opponents virtually ineffective is much more fascinating.
Fighters only have a small window to make money in this business. It’s extremely hard to make it as a professional and even then, it doesn’t necessarily equate to wealth. The chances of sustaining a serious career ending injury are generally higher than other sports considering the brutal nature of MMA.
In my opinion, McGregor deserves a lot of credit with how quickly he’s dominated the sport and the type of money he can demand for his fights. He’s brought a renewed interest to MMA and the UFC with his unorthodox approach. Many fighters have attempted this mental warfare with varying levels of success.
Past opponents of McGregor’s like Diego Brandao, Denis Siver and Dustin Poirier were all steam rolled by the Irishman. What was unusual is how out of depth they were in the octagon with him. They looked depleted and lacked confidence. It was not necessarily a gulf in their skill sets, but an effect of the psychological warfare they endured before the fight.
The best example of this was the fight with Jose Aldo. Aldo is undeniably one of the greatest fighters in the MMA world today. He was scheduled to fight McGregor on July 11, 2015. Both fighters featured in a long, drawn out world tour to promote the event. While it was a success for the UFC, it seemed to have completely drained Aldo. It allowed McGregor to get inside his head and unleash a barrage of mental warfare on him. Aldo subsequently pulled out of the fight and it was rescheduled. The damage had already been done.
When the fight eventually materialized on December 12, 2015, UFC commentator Joe Rogan questioned Aldo’s physique, suggesting he looked “soft”. While Aldo’s camp kept things fairly secretive before the fight, it was quite clear he got sucked into the mind games from McGregor, which ultimately cost him the belt.
McGregor was then scheduled to fight Rafael Dos Anjos (RDS) for the Lightweight belt. In the pre-fight war-of-words with RDS, McGregor used his “defection” to the USA as an attempt to bait him, hoping to turn the Brazilian fans against him. RDS eventually pulled out with a broken foot and the fight never materialized.
Finally, we come to the fight with Nate Diaz (don’t worry, I didn’t forget!). The product of Stockton was given a call less than two weeks out from UFC 196 and accepted the fight at 170 pounds.
In the press conference, McGregor stated that he respected Diaz. He then proceeded to tease him by stating “he makes gun signs with the right hand and makes animal balloons with the left hand.” This was an attempt to belittle him. The mind games didn’t seem to bother Diaz. In fact, he took the insults in his stride.
For the first time in his UFC career, McGregor faced an opponent that didn’t break mentally. The fight took place and McGregor lost due to a rear naked choke.
McGregor is now rumored to be facing Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 for the Featherweight belt. It will be very interesting to see if McGregor changes his approach after the loss to Diaz. Will we see the same outspoken Irishman oozing with confidence? Or will we see a much calmer respectful McGregor? Only time will tell.