Saturday, August 20, 2016

Smoke, Mirrors and McGregor

Back in March right before UFC 196, I wrote about my admiration for Conor McGregor's style of self promotion. His way with words was equaled by his unique and successful fighting style in the octagon. It's fair to say some in the fight world want to see the brash Irishman shut up. How do you do that? Normally, you silence them by defeating them. But over the last few weeks, McGregor has shown the defeat hasn't left him speechless by any means. Instead of enhancing his aura, the sharp-tongued fighter comes off looking attention-seeking and petty.

Some may see it as Conor being a self-promoter, but I see it as a distraction from the realization that McGregor will not figure out Nate Diaz a second time around.

Instead of limiting himself to just MMA, McGregor's scope of promotion has extended to Floyd Mayweather and even God himself. Now it has found it's way into the wrestling realm:

“For the most part, those WWE guys are [expletive], to be honest,” McGregor said. “They’re messed up [expletive], if you ask me. Fair play to Brock [Lesnar], he got in and fought, but at the end of the day he was juiced up to the [expletive] eyeballs, so how can I respect that?”

He didn't back away after personalities in the wrestling world came after him, either:

"What's the main guy? John Cena. He's 40. He's 40 years of age. He's walking around in a luminous orange t-shirt and a headband talking about nobody can see him. We can see him right there. He's a big fat, 40-year-old failed Mr. Olympia mother f*cker."

This isn't an exposition to scold McGregor for his lack of knowledge of wrestling. He's got his right to his opinions and freedom of speech. But for a guy who before the loss to Diaz was so quick with his wit and creative with his insults, it seemed rather trivial to challenge athletes from a pre-determined sport.

There were two possibilities. He hastily decided to insult the WWE and wrestlers around the world for the sake of it and to grab headlines. The other intention? It was designed to work all of us and open up the channels for McGregor to get a payday at Wrestlemania 33.

Whether it was one or the other, it seems once again like a way to deter eyes from the elephant in the room: McGregor hasn't improved enough since their last encounter and views this fight with Diaz as a vehice to get "big money". It's no secret McGregor scoffs at the featherweight division he is a champion of:

“It was my idea. I wanted to have my revenge at 170, and they’re crying and complaining about the 145-pound belt, which I just won three months ago. That division was killed, it was dead. Jose went down in 13 seconds. What more can I do? I traveled the world with that man. I finally got him in the Octagon, and he only lasts 13 seconds.
I didn’t see a challenge there anymore. So, I wanted to create interest from a fan’s perspective and my perspective. I want to see them two go at it, with an interim belt on the line. Then I will see people walking around my division with a belt and that will intrigue me. It will make me want that belt again.”

It was a mistake to risk his unbeatable aura back at UFC 196, and a bigger err in judgement to schedule an immediate rematch. The fact is that Nate Diaz is as accomplished at jui-jitsu as they come, and a few months of preparation won't make up for McGregor's shortcomings on the ground.

"The Notorious One" can dominate featherweights by being bigger than them while matching their speed. His advantage comes in the striking department where he can get up close and personal and influence the direction of the fight. But with Diaz's length, McGregor can't get inside to dish out his deadly strikes. McGregor may have once prided himself on his conditioning, but Diaz is a triathlon veteran with an incredibly deep gas tank. I don't see why this second go-around won't be a repeat of the first with Conor gassing out and being vulnerable to any and all of Diaz's fight-ending submissions.

The ultimate irony about the quick-witted Irishman is his unwillingness to do press appearances over the last few months. That got him into hot water with UFC management and cost him his spot on the UFC 200 card opposite Diaz. After "retiring" for a day, it was later agreed the two would meet tonight at UFC 202.

Then mere days ago, McGregor/Diaz boiled to a fever pitch. After the featherweight champion showed up thirty minutes late, the presser didn't last much longer after what I'll coin "The Battle of Dasani and Monster". Diaz was enraged and decided to leave and tossed a bottle of water in McGregor's direction. The champ was having none of it, and responded with not one but two cans of Monster flung into the audience.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but while many found it entertaining and adding to the hype of the rematch- I found it childish and unbecoming of a fighter who considers himself the best in the world and on level with Jesus Christ. 

He would later go on SportsCenter to explain his side, and it once again came off as lazy and immature (NSFW language):
To some that, too may have been a riot. To me, it screamed that McGregor has let Diaz get into his head in some fashion. 

That brings us to tonight. What happens if "The Notorious One" wins? Sure, he'll get his win back. Sure, it's more money for him and added fuel to continue fighting outside his division. But aside from him getting an amount of pride back, it doesn't accomplish much in the big UFC picture. The rematch is unnecessary from a standpoint that there was no controversy the first time around. Diaz outstruck McGregor and finished him decisively with a rear-naked choke.

Yet wouldn't a McGregor win give Diaz an argument for a rubber match? As much as one would think so, UFC despite all their posturing has shown that Conor will eventually get his way and would look to have him move on to another match-up. Diaz's conspiracy case against the UFC would only grow stronger. 

As mentioned above, I strongly believe Diaz will win again. If that does happen, does Conor tuck his tail between his legs, give up the "big fight" match-ups and stick to featherweight/lightweight match-ups? His negotiating power will severely be affected if he were to lose a second fight in a row to the same fighter. Any other welterweight aspirations will be shelved for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. 

If Diaz does win again, no amount of smoke, mirrors or spin will aid the UFC or McGregor. They'll only have themselves to blame for a situation that could have easily been avoided. 

 Like it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know @SeanNeutron.

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