It’s Tuesday, and still the level of dayum is pretty high.
Conor McGregor didn’t just knock down Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, he dealt a blow to skeptics going back millennia. There’s a reason skepticism has stayed in business as long as it has. Skepticism always ends up at common sense. When mystics get to messing with the strings behind the curtain, the easy play is to raise a suspicious eyebrow and say, "uh-huh." Doubt is safe. By the time McGregor and Aldo made their walks to the cage, the betting line had swung in Aldo’s favor.
Skeptics, it turns out, speak with money.
That’s (one of the reasons) why the roof came off of the MGM Grand on Saturday night, and the Irish jubilation felt a little justified. McGregor was playing a mental game not just with Aldo but with all the dummies that kept stepping with reason. He was playing conductor for a whole symphony of belief systems. There’s no way he should have been able to call his shot and then execute it with one-punch efficiency. Yet he did. Against one of the most revered strikers in the game, who hadn’t lost for a decade, he did. Aldo never falls. And yet he did. From the stands the level of disbelief at what had just happened did a hot lap before finally meeting up with the defiant belief in the Irish heart that it would.
In the end, seeing was believing (and believing in seeing).
In any case, it was pandemonium in Las Vegas. Beers were flying. People were singing, hugging and dancing. The party raged into the night. McGregor — a.k.a. "Mystic Mac" — had somehow squeezed god into his four-ounce gloves, and the left one met with Aldo’s chin on first deployment. That just doesn’t happen. All week long, each time I met with an Irish fan who’d made the 5,000-mile trip to see McGregor fight in the flesh, there was insecurity in play. Every one of them asked who I thought would win, as if a McGregor pick would make them feel better about whatever it was they were thinking. They wanted to share in any potential foolishness.
That’s a great sporting event. When an outcome will either make you an emotional fool (who cares too much things beyond their power) or somebody who’s well beyond hunches (who believes they contribute to the power itself).
If UFC 194 is the high-water mark of McGregor’s career, it’s a damn good one. Who can’t appreciate a champion who’s so proficient in...execution of will? Seeing? Movement? Metaphysics? Alchemy? Whatever it was, Aldo went out, and for that brief moment McGregor communicated everything that words can’t. It was like he’d won the fight a million times already. In his mind he had. "Timing beats speed," he said afterwards, as if what we witnessed was indeed inevitable. "Precision beats power."
And, for the time being, mystics beat skeptics.
What McGregor’s performance called to mind was Anderson’s Silva’s fight against Forrest Griffin at UFC 101, when Silva bewitched the former light heavyweight champion by going full Matrix. Silva had his hands down. Griffin would throw a punch, Silva would bob and weave and — as if Griffin was speed bag come to life, or just some inconsequential plaything — strafe him dead accuracy.
Only, Griffin was slow and lumbering former champ who had no business in the cage with Silva. The difference is that McGregor did it to Aldo. He made Aldo — the great Jose Aldo — appear as an outdated model, just some Commodore trying to take down Silicon Valley.
Of course, it was just one punch. But it was a punch that traveled a long way to connect. And connect it did. Not just on Aldo’s chin, but with the people of Ireland. Afterwards many of McGregor’s countrymen talked about it being the greatest sporting feat in the history of that country. That punch did away with plenty of Irish stigma.
Maybe it was luck, or a mere coincidence. Time will sort it out. But in a mystic’s world, there is no luck or coincidence. There’s only the manipulation of the two. And if McGregor did anything on Saturday night, he showed he can manipulate with the best of them.