Just when I found myself wondering which new item I’d use to lead Fightweets this week, along comes Conor McGregor. The UFC lightweight champ made a spectacle of himself at Bellator 187 on Friday in Dublin, jumping into the cage following teammate Charlie Ward’s win over John Redmond, shoving referee Marc Goddard, then later slapping a Bellator employee before finally leaving the scene.
And with that, we’re off to the races ...
Conor’s slippery slope
@dpop2: Is Conor’s behavior cageside a sign the pressure/fame getting to him?
In hindsight, Ronda Rousey’s downfall was caused in large part by the fact she quite obviously bought into her own hype. The pioneering former UFC women’s bantamweight champion closed herself off to everyone but her inner circle while the rest of her division was catching up to her and surpassing her.
Meanwhile, people close to Rousey were telling her it was a good idea to go on the cover of The Ring magazine and also decide she could beat a former three-weight-class world boxing champion in Holly Holm at her own game. After that backfired spectacularly, she doubled down, and Amanda Nunes beat her faster and just as hard.
Conor McGregor passed his similar tests regarding complacency in the cage with flying colors -- most famously, when Nate Diaz beat him, McGregor demanded an immediate rematch and won. There’s little worry McGregor is ever going to feel he’s untouchable in competition.
Outside the cage, though, McGregor is showing increasing signs that he feels he’s above the sport, and that no one is telling him to check himself.
It started when he made racial comments during the runup to his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- comments which were condemned far more harshly in the mainstream and boxing media than on the MMA side. It continued with his use of homophobic slurs after making a spectacle of himself cageside during Artem Lobov’s loss to Andre Fili at UFC Gdansk -- both the UFC and way too many in his camp and in the media really wanted to pretend like it didn’t actually happen (see a pattern starting to develop here?) before McGregor finally apologized more than a week later.
Then came Friday’s events in Dublin. McGregor was not a licensed cornerman and had no more business being in the cage than anyone else in the arena. McGregor not only shoved referee Marc Goddard, but also later slapped either a commission member or Bellator employee.
If anyone but McGregor in that arena did this, they’d be sitting in a Dublin jail cell right now.
Imagine, just for a second, that a scenario like this played out in another sport. Say that LeBron James was attending his friend Chris Paul’s Houston Rockets game, wasn’t credentialed to be out on the floor, and ran out on the court and shoved a ref and slapped another official on his way off. What would the response to this be?
Hint: He wouldn’t get off without a fine and suspension. And the fact that his return game after a suspension would draw a giant television audience wouldn’t make his actions any less wrong.
This is being written early evening Friday. As of this writing, Mike Mazzulli from the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports and Mohegan Sun, who was overseeing the Bellator event, said he planned on issuing a response shortly. If a suspension is handed out, it is supposed to be honored by the rest of the ABC commissions. We might be about to find out just how much juice this sport’s patchwork regulatory bodies really have.
If this was an episode of Behind the Music, we’d be at the part where people comment on all the early warning signs that were ignored before things got out of control. Someone in Conor’s camp needs to get his head back on straight, and fast, because once the snowball starts going downhill, it can pick up with alarming speed.
What’s next for GSP?
@FrankKnuckle: Does GSP actually unify? Or do the smart thing and relinquish the belt and fight Conor whole money can be made???
Well, in an appearance on a special Thursday edition of The MMA Hour, St-Pierre said that a match with interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker is, in fact, in his contract. But he also doesn’t sound like a fighter super-enthused about the notion.
The UFC needs St-Pierre at this point more than St-Pierre needs him. If he doesn’t want to continue fighting at middleweight, and the other option would be simply staying home and not fighting, the UFC is not going to try to force him to fight Whittaker when they could make another fight for GSP and make another huge PPV score.
At some point sooner rather than later, GSP does owe it to the middleweight division to decide whether to continue as champion or to vacate and let the division continue on with Whittaker promoted to the full championship. Given the honor with which St-Pierre has conducted himself throughout his career, it’s highly unlikely the division’s top contenders will be jerked around the way they were during Bisping’s reign.
St-Pierre also seemed to turn thumbs down on a McGregor fight, saying it’s not his place to call out lighter-weight fighters. So that would leave the option of either a) making a run at regaining the welterweight belt he never lost or b) playing it cool and waiting for another challenge which captures his attention like the Bisping fight did.
Either way, contract clause or no, he’s earned the right to call his shots going forward.
No sleep Till Liverpool
@HJMav: Do you think Darren Till should get his wish and Dana should book him in his hometown in Liverpool?
Darren Till should absolutely headline a card in Liverpool. Till is one of the brightest potential young starts in this deep new pool of welterweights who could carry this sport into the next generation. He looked phenomenal in his UFC Gdansk win over Donald Cerrone. Another big fight, in his hometown, is a home run of a next step.
However ... what shouldn’t happen is Dana White shouldn’t just unilaterally declare such a fight without bothering to check if both fighters are down for it yet, which is what apparently happened this week. And in this case, Stephen Thompson wasn’t ready to fight Till. Thompson should fell no pressure to jump right back into the cage at Dana’s behest against someone lower than him on the totem pole right after he threw down with a killer like Jorge Masvidal for 15 minutes.
Side note: Just like we shouldn’t take Dana’s unilateral declarations as unvarnished truth, likewise, it’s time to start digging beneath the surface when high-profile agents do likewise. Like Holly Holm’s agent declaring a fight with Cris Cyborg “dead.” The news itself is worth reporting, but you must also take it with a grain of salt: How many fights have been declared “dead” in the past, only to have the bout resurrect in the blink of an eye? Hell, we just had a main event last Saturday that was declared “dead.” When an agent gets his or her story out there, it should be treated just as skeptically as when Dana or any other single actor tries to get ahead of a story.
So yes, Till should get a big showcase fight in Liverpool. Against a fighter who wants the fight on that date.
@Spetsznazz: Who’s your p4p #1 fighter right now?
Same person it was this time last week: UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. St-Pierre’s big return win over Bisping certainly helps bolster his case for GOAT status. But the GOAT is an all-time thing, and as impressive as St-Pierre’s win was, the P4P debate is about today, and defeating Bisping doesn’t in your first fight in four years doesn’t vault you over a champ with 11 consecutive title defenses in a row.
Damn you, MMA Gods
@auggie85: Were injuries to Edgar and Cruz the price we pay for a great 217 card? Why can't we have nice things in MMA?
And you sent question this to me before news broke of Anderson Silva’s second potential USADA violation, icing his UFC Shanghai main event against Kelvin Gastelum. That warm and fuzzy little glow we had for a few days after one of the greatest fight cards of all-time was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it? Since then, Dominick Cruz suffered a broken arm, Frankie Edgar a facial injury, McGregor’s running wild, and so on and so forth (On the plus side, kudos to Max Holloway for wanting to stay on UFC 218. Yes, he could play the safe route and wait on Edgar, but the fans who buy tickets expecting a certain fighter or a championship fight have been burned once too often, so good on Max for wanting to make it happen for the fans in Detroit). I don’t know why the MMA Gods are as they are, and I’ve given up trying to figure them out. Let’s just enjoy the UFC 217s when we get ‘em.