Conor McGregor: Vengeance & Redemption
Many things caught up with Conor McGregor at UFC 229, inactivity, his lifestyle and of course a certain Khabib Nurmagomedov.
McGregor found out that MMA waits for nobody. He said he had come home, but he learnt that others had moved in where he once was the King of the castle. McGregor in his absence left the door open, history tells us he may not get back in.
Fighters have a limited window of opportunity, a few short years when they are at their physical peak. Very quickly erosion begins, returning to the summit is usually far more difficult than the first ascent.
McGregor was at his peak around 2015-2016, culminating in that flawless display at UFC 205 when he brutally dismantled Eddie Alvarez to become a two-weight UFC champion.
A self imposed hiatus from the UFC, starting with mission impossible against Floyd Mayweather. It was an ego and money making driven expedition to another world where he simply didn’t belong.
When the inevitable happened it was followed by injury, suspension, brushes with the law, which all have restricted McGregor to just one Octagon appearance since 2016.
There are of course those extremely serious allegations still doing the rounds, which shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored, a public closure or clarification is very much needed. But equally until something is proven, he should be given the benefit of doubt.
But regardless of innocence or guilt, it’s fair to say the image of McGregor is very different to what it once was, tarnished beyond repair, time will tell.
But McGregor finally has a fight confirmed, a date with a certain cowboy in January. It’s a much tougher fight than most think, and at a weight where he clearly struggles. The weight for me clearly favours his opponent, McGregor has made many bad decisions recently, fighting at 170 might be another.
Donald Cerrone might be on the slide, but he is still incredibly dangerous, and if McGregor fails to get him out of there in the first two rounds, the chances of the upset greatly increase. We know the cardio of McGregor is highly suspect, and Cerrone will know the longer the fight goes, the final nail in the MMA career of McGregor draws nearer.
Inside the Octagon is where McGregor can find solace, a place where all the trappings of his success become irrelevant. His place in history is secure, McGregor has given us plenty, but he has taken much of it away as well.
The legacy has been badly tarnished in recent times, and despite the words saying the old hunger is back, the McGregor era might already be over.
The Cerrone fight at UFC 246 gives McGregor his first chance on the possible road to redemption. With the fight being at welterweight, that road could have many different routes if McGregor gets his first win since 2016.
Dana White says victory will give McGregor the chance of revenge, however, Nurmagomedov says different. Will a win mean he stays at welterweight, a third title or a fight with a born again Jorge Masvidal are all possible options. Victory gives him plenty, but defeat would leave him facing the realisation his day in the sun has gone.
We’ve seen a side of McGregor that isn’t pleasant and downright unsavoury at times, but he is still big box office despite all the negativity around him, UFC 246 sold out in a matter of minutes. McGregor is the biggest draw in UFC history, and despite a narrative being spun, they still badly need him.
As for McGregor he has plenty in his life, but the untold riches can’t replace what McGregor really is, a fighter. As much as the UFC need McGregor, he equally needs them. The solitude of a training camp keeps him from temptation and trouble elsewhere.
There is a point to prove, he’s saying the right things and with much conviction. But has the time away eroded his skills too much. Or will we see one last run, armed with vengeance and further history on his mind.
But with lightweights such as Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje around, and a welterweight division where he appears just too small to compete at the elite level, the odds are firmly stacked against McGregor ever wearing UFC gold again.
But maybe McGregor can get something he needs more than another belt around his waist, he needs balance and a little humility to enter his life.
The old arrogance earned him plenty but equally it has played it’s part in his recent troubles, but the old act won’t cut it anymore, inside or outside of the cage.
McGregor needs to be different, he needs to change, 2020 will tell us many things. McGregor has the opportunity to give us some more incredible memories, he will hope he hasn’t left it too late.