Everyone is waiting to see what McGregor’s fists will accomplish next. The man himself created the global fascination involving a young Irishman, standing in the center of cage, wearing shorts and two four-ounce leather gloves. He hasn’t wasted time monetizing the phenomenon either since he began headlining shows for the UFC in only his second fight with the promotion. Before becoming remotely close in every true fight fan’s mind as a legitimately ranked fighter, he was telling anyone who wanted to know, he was the true champ because he hadn’t been defeated yet.
“We’re not here to take part – we’re here to take over,” he’s famously quoted.
Apparently, his coach woke him up one night to inform him he just got the call for his first scheduled title fight against Jose Aldo, and this was before he had stepped in to the cage against a legit top ten opponents in the sport, he said, “It doesn’t matter, they’re all the same,” before rolling back over to fall back to sleep. But he’s more than ranked these days. He’s beaten every opponent put in front of him in the UFC. Ranked as the second pound-for-pound fighter in the world and the undisputed king of two weight classes, he’s still only looking for transcending further past his colleagues.
He’s proven he won’t think twice about picking an opponent if no one thinks he can win. It’s about the money and the respect. Being the greatest is more than showmanship and fighting prowess. It’s taking challenges that appear impossible. It’s breaking rules universally believed to be unbreakable. Metaphors aside, McGregor is here to do things that no one else has done and he will say that to anyone who will listen. Will all the risks pay off when he continually chooses to avoid settling in to a rhythm like every other champion has ever done in the UFC, which is to defend the belt he wears around his waist? He fully intends to find out.
The old ways are gone now that the UFC is under new ownership. The gate keepers of the sport have left their post and in their place, stands a faceless organization since the Fertitta brothers sold the UFC to the WME-IMG Group. Conor wanted his poster changed when he was fighting for the lightweight strap at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden last month, so his featherweight belt sat on his shoulder next to Alvarez, pictured with his. Now he wants stock options, and soon he’s going to ask for a boxing match against one of the greatest and still undefeated boxers ever to step in to the ring in Floyd Mayweather jr.
I used to think he enjoyed the hype too much to risk losing if he ever got the opportunity to win and hold UFC gold. That’s what sane UFC champions do. But after finally climbing the mountain and taking the 145lb strap from the pound-for-pound king at the time in Jose Aldo with one punch, he didn’t sit back. Instead he went back to work by going from 145 to 170, skipping 155 completely for the first Nate Diaz fight, before dropping back down to 155 to rematch Diaz, and then promptly fighting Eddie Alvarez for the 155lb belt.
My favorite moment of Conor’s happened on The Ultimate Fighter reality show when he coached opposite of Urijah Faber. He informed him there was a snake in his camp, when Bantamweight champ at the time, TJ Dillashaw, showed up all smiles and happy to help. Anyone who pays attention to MMA knows how prophetic that statement turned out to be. And so, there sits McGregor, surrounded by the same team he started down the road of combat sports with since the beginning. He isn’t fake, he isn’t hype, and he isn’t here to fuel fires for the sake of publicity, and it’s all right there in his actions from day one.
Conor is not trying to walk in the footsteps of other men. For whatever reason, it’s not what gets him off the couch at the end of the day. He’s here to make money and do things differently. But that’s not exactly it either.
He believes, given the chance, he can beat one of the greatest boxers to ever step in to the ring in Floyd Mayweather in Floyd’s sport no less. That’s going to be the fight he will demand when he returns to the sport after his wife gives birth to their first child.
He’s will make demands and anyone who is on board will make money, or get left in the past, as someone that had an opportunity to change with the ever-evolving landscape of combat sports and the most dynamic fighter since Muhammad Ali.