Conor McGregor: Has To Prove Himself All Over Again
A little over a year ago it was supposed to be the start of a season, a glorious new beginning. The previous few years saw unsavoury headlines, multiple brushes with the law, extremely serious accusations and defeat to his bitter rival. McGregor seemed set on a course for self-destruction, a one way street to oblivion.
Last January, Conor McGregor returned with some humility, and it took just 40 seconds to announce his comeback in some style. Donald Cerrone was just a little taster to what was to come. But a worldwide pandemic, another pointless retirement and McGregor spent the rest of the year in his own brand of isolation.
But finally, a new season begins on Fight Island at UFC 257 when McGregor goes over old ground. Dustin Poirier will get his chance of revenge against the fighter who stopped him inside two minutes at UFC 178 in 2014.
The first fight has no real significance to the return on Saturday night. In many ways, it is McGregor who has it all to prove. UFC 178 showed how good McGregor was, the rematch will show what he has left. McGregor has to prove himself all over again.
In 2016 McGregor was at the height of his powers, incredibly impressive, flawless even, against Eddie Alvarez, but is he still the same fighter today. The sporadic appearances since have been more worrying than encouraging.
The 2018 grudge match with Khabib Nurmagomedov was always a tough ask coming off a long layoff, more so with the stylistic nightmare the fight was. McGregor failed to prepare as diligently as he should have. The sight of him drinking his own brand of whiskey at a press conference just a few days out from the fight is just as shocking now as it was then.
McGregor was largely dominated before the end came in the 4th round. To his credit, he survived that awful 2nd round to win the following round. But his performance showed the inevitable and understandable rust, and he had little answer to the skills of his arch-nemesis.
The win over Cerrone, probably more so his mindset and preparation offered hope, but did it really show anything we didn’t know. Did Cerrone offer anything in the way of resistance? But it was a much humbler, more focused McGregor, a refreshing change from the version we saw against Khabib.
The build-up for the Poirier has followed a similar pattern, the old act was getting tiresome, toxic at times and became ineffective against his opponents. McGregor does seem to have rediscovered his old hunger, but has he left it too late.
Inactivity, abuse of his body and age are never a good mix. McGregor looks in great physical shape, but there must be doubts that if the fight goes long and deep will his body and mind be found wanting. We have seen McGregor break before.
Poirier is the fighter with the recent form, the proven fighter of late. He might just be a little too much for McGregor at this stage of his career. Big wins over the likes of Alvarez, Dan Hooker, Justin Gaethje and others show his talent, pedigree and evolution. Poirier came as close to beating Khabib as anybody ever has, he had one very big moment in their title fight in 2019 before normal service was resumed soon after.
We largely know what we will get with Poirier, the same can’t be said of McGregor. Does his power still carry the same effect at lightweight, will the stamina issues of the past resurface? McGregor says the stamina woes are a myth, but are they. Poirier will likely show us the truth on Fight Island.
McGregor says it will be a masterpiece, and despite all the chaos in his life that never seems to end, he seems as though this is a McGregor who wants to leave a little more legacy in the sport. The discipline of a training camp seems to be where McGregor is happiest outside of family life. Without it, trouble seems to find him.
I don’t see Poirier folding as quickly this time, McGregor might need patience and plenty of it. He might have to replicate the type of performance he gave against Alvarez. Push too soon we may see a repeat of the first fight with Nate Diaz. McGregor can not afford to empty the gas tank against Poirier.
McGregor has admitted himself that he needs rounds, Poirier is highly likely to give him what he needs. I do think McGregor leaves the Island with the win he needs, but every second the fight lasts the chances of the upset and revenge increase.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)