It seems fitting that a man like Yogi Berra is the most exact person to quote when speaking about Conor McGregor. With a lifetime of paradoxical contradictions, better known as “Yogi-isms”, this seems to be the precise direction one needs to head to truly get into the mind of McGregor.
Let’s make one thing very clear from the beginning. Conor McGregor is one of the world’s best professional mixed martial artists. The fact that he white washed Jose Aldo in record time is nice on paper, but the fact is that regardless of the time, he defeated a man deemed unbeatable, and for over a decade, he was. Add in his victories over Chad Mendes, Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway, Nate Diaz and fifteen other men, his bragging may turn some off, but his skill cannot be ignored. At 145 pounds, there may not be a man that can defeat the Irish superstar, but the issue once again is simply that no 145 pounder seems to be receiving the chance to even try.
Go back to April 19, 2016. Following a 2nd round submission loss to Nate Diaz, held at Welterweight, the rematch was set for the flagship event in UFC history, UFC 200. Nevermind that many felt his title should have been defended against any deserving Featherweight, rather than an ego consoling second crack at Diaz, the UFC saw the Scrooge McDuck dollar signs in their eyes and couldn’t pass on it. But before the pot even began to boil, McGregor was pulled from the card for failing to meet mandated media obligations for the event on April 19. The spectacle which followed was surely outlined in some stolen WWE script, but in the end, the two did finally square off again, happening at UFC 202. In a close fought, sure fire fight of the year candidate, McGregor evened the score with Diaz by claiming a tough fought Unanimous Decision.
Six weeks prior to this rematch, Aldo took on, and defeated, Frankie Edgar, securing the UFC Featherweight interim title at UFC 200. The fact that an interim title was created as a champion was still active is a discussion for another day, but UFC President Dana White seemed sold on the idea that win or lose, McGregor would defend his title next. Following the event, White stated in several manners that McGregor would either defend his title, or vacate it.
Soon after, talk of another possible Lightweight title shot for McGregor, this time against Eddie Alvarez, began to take over the MMA universe. UFC 205 would play host to the bout, giving the promotions return to New York a possible historic match. But once again, somewhere down the line, McGregor appears to have overplayed his hand.
White, when asked about the validity of the rumoured McGregor/Alvarez bout on Twitter, responded with:
While this is never a clear indicator of what is next, as White is known for not always accurately portraying the truth, it would appear that he simultaneously announced the next 155 pound title bout and shot down McGregor’s chase of history with less than 140 characters. As nothing is official yet, the reasoning for McGregor not receiving this title match is unknown, but many reports have pointed to the refusal to vacate the Featherweight title as the primary stopping point. Never one to bite his tongue or be outdone by anyone verbally, McGregor took to Twitter himself and posted a very simple, yet cryptic, Tweet to the masses:
For anyone to achieve greatness in anything, an inflated ego is a must, more so in a sport such as MMA. You cannot feel as if anyone, or anything, can touch you, but at what point does that confidence turn into pure cockiness and bluster? In McGregor’s case, it appears to have happened twice now. Yes, he is still the UFC Featherweight champion, and yes, he did go 5 grueling rounds with a top Lightweight contender, but he also was submitted in less than 2 rounds by the same Lightweight, and despite all of his talk, he has yet to even acknowledge the idea of defending the title he seems to dead set on never letting go of.
It becomes more and more difficult to call anyone great when their own actions give you cause to question it. McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, has stated that a return to Featherweight might be difficult, if not impossible. Having not competed at this weight in almost a year, and now dealing with an injury, the chances of a man who admittedly struggled to make 145 pounds is left in an odd position. His talk of stating he will fight where he wants next may be true, but it appears now that unless that fight is at 145 pounds, against Jose Aldo, his next opponent may not follow the path he thinks he can set for himself, this being holding the Featherweight crown as he bounces around divisions.
Make no mistake, McGregor is the premier draw within the sport right now. But as the UFC has already shown, he is not an equal to the promotion, he is an employee, no matter how high profile he is. He may think he can call his own shots in a promotion that runs the show under their own rules, but it is becoming apparent that his dreams are not one that the UFC cares much about. At what point does McGregor realize that he is not bigger then the sport, even with his record breaking paydays and PPV sales?
If a company such as the UFC, one that appears to place money above all else, is willing to scrap a possible history making bout in the interest of allowing divisions to actually move forward, there isn’t much anyone can say about the decision. And they should be applauded for doing so.
So what does McGregor actually do next? Will he take to Twitter and revive the Floyd Mayweather bout? Maybe call out the winner of Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson? Or does he simply do what a champion does, and defend his title and tag of worlds greatest Featherweight? Whatever it is, it will surely entertaining/annoying for months.
To use another “Yogi-ism” to sum up the entire Conor McGregor situation:
“The future ain’t what it used to be.”