Conor McGregor may not be the UFC Champion quite yet, but that’s not stopping him from acting like he has been for years. You’d be hard pressed to find a better combination of charisma, fashion sense, and a quick wit in all of mixed martial arts. Now add in the soon-to-be iconic stance, unparalleled technical skill, and unteachable toughness and grit, and you've got one of the most entertaining and promising prospects the UFC has ever had.
McGregor is truly one of a kind in every sense of the phrase. His microphone skills are among the best in the world, with the possible exception of Chael Sonnen, and he has talked his way into a war of words with nearly every fighter in the division (and even a few in other divisions as well). He’s being called out by guys ranked higher than him; South Africans are giving away cars for matching his number of twitter followers; he has been indefinitely sidelined and is still one of the most talked about fighters in the world. In less than a year, he has gone from Irish standout to international superstar and he’s yet to fight on a UFC main card. He even received the blackout treatment in just the second UFC fight of his career, an honor usually reserved exclusively for main eventers.
The world’s view of him is quickly catching up to his view of himself, and fame and fortune inevitably lie in his future, but what’s a winning personality if you’re not doing just that; winning. McGregor has an overall record of 14-2, winning ten in a row since 2011. All 14 of his wins came by way of KO or TKO, with the exception of one submission and one unanimous decision. The decision victory came in his most recent fight with Max Holloway, where he looked uncharacteristically flat in the second half of the fight, not only failing to finish his opponent for the first time, but also seeing his first-ever round 3. Take a moment, and let that sink in. Through 16 fights and 14 victories, Conor McGregor has only seen a bikini-clad model hold up a card with a ‘3’ on it one time. In fact, he’s only returned to his corner for some water and a pep talk on five occasions, as 12 of his fights were over in the first round. Oh and by the way, he may have a relatively reasonable excuse for not finishing Max Halloway in Boston. It was reported a few days afterward that he tore his ACL and MCL mid-fight and managed to win every round nevertheless. And like the People’s Champ that he is (or aims to be), he refused to use the injury as a crutch and actually apologized for not finishing the fight in the post-fight presser. "I don’t come here for decisions. We are rewarded for finishes and that’s what I’m looking for. I am a finisher."
I had the chance to meet McGregor at a bar in Boston following his fight on August 17th. Have you ever had one of those nights that can't be accurately explained to anyone who wasn't there with you? Well this was one of those nights. I'm not sure how we ended up at said bar, as it was located on some random corner and completely empty, except for a few older couples sitting in tables against the wall. We wandered in to get a drink regardless and were soon-after approached by an energetic young man dressed in a suit and emphatically claiming that 'UFC fighters are on their way to our location as we speak!' Naturally, we didn't believe him as this didn't exactly look like the scene that fighters would end up at after a big event, but sure enough, some people started trickling in. First came Steven Siler, followed by Ramsey Nijem. The look of disappointment when they saw a near-empty bar was unmistakable, but to their credit they politely spoke to my party of four, likely trying to figure out if we were there with the suited gentlemen or, like them, strangely out of place.
After a little while, McGregor came in, dressed in his three piece suit, pocket watch and all, with a big smile on his face and a small posse by his side. He didn't seem to notice the tremendously small turn out to what was surely pitched as a huge after-party celebration, and if he did notice, he didn't show it. Even the fighters were excited to talk to the budding celebrity that is Conor McGregor, so despite the size of the crowd, I didn't get to speak to him long. I asked him about his comment from the pre-fight presser the night before. When reminded of his quote, "there's two things I really like to do and that's whoop ass and look good and I'm doing one of them right now and Saturday night, I'm gonna do the other," he grinned widely as if hearing it for the first time. It was at that moment when I knew that all these soundbites that he seems to deliver with such regularity are only halfway an attempt to grow his reputation. The other half is simply to amuse himself. This is not an act of desperation or a cheap ploy, but rather a dynamic part of a young athlete's true personality. Let's be honest, charismatic fighters have come and gone in this sport. Some of them were extremely talented as well. But I've never seen such a complete assembly of every ingredient required to make a UFC star in my life. I look forward to what the future holds for the notorious one and have a strong feeling that we'll be seeing a lot of Mr. McGregor in the years to come. Good.