Why the fight is still burning for the UFC’s most famous name
Why the fight is still burning for the UFC’s most famous name

The one legacy McGregor wants to leave behind

He has money, fame and titles. But UFC legend Conor McGregor wants to leave behind just one thing when his career is over. Read his interview with NICK CAMPTON here before his big fight with Dustin Poirier in UFC257 at Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

FOR A MAN who uses words as weapons almost as brutally as he does his fists, it's a something of a surprise to learn Conor McGregor doesn't like to hear himself talk.

Can't stand it, in fact.

The brightest star in the UFC, the most famous man in combat sports, who has carved out a kingdom and an unimaginable fortune in part by forcing the world to listen to what he has to say has no interest in re-visiting his own words once delivered.

Watch Poirier v McGregor at UFC 257 live on Main Event on Foxtel and Kayo. Sunday 24 January at 2pm AEDT. ORDER NOW >

"Most people don't like listening to themselves talk. That's probably a bit rich coming from me, I'm always talking," he says, "but I never watch [interviews] back."

McGregor isn't alone in that. Plenty of people hate hearing him. As many people love it, too.

Which is why Sunday's (2pm AEDT) bout with Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi will be the fighting event of the year - until, of course, McGregor saddles up again, which he's keen to do as often as possible in 2021.

For McGregor the question heading into the fight isn't so much whether he'll beat Poirier - although that's far from a fait accompli given the Louisiana man's pedigree - but whether he can return the focus onto what he does inside the cage rather than outside it.

He wants to be active again, to be known for fighting, putting on a show, like how things used to be.

"I want to stack highlights. Long after I'm gone, more than the money, more than the titles at multiple weights and all of this, highlights live on," McGregor said.

"I want my highlights to be a movie. I'm going to put on some amazing displays, I've got so much left to show.

"I got 40 seconds in 2020, I'm eager to continue and carry on and stack the most prestigious thing of all - highlights."

Given he's the most famous fighter in the world, McGregor has not done a whole lot of fighting in recent years. Since 2017 he's had two MMA bouts - losing one to Khabib Nurmagomedov in decisive fashion and winning the other over a shop-worn Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds flat - and boxed Floyd Mayweather in a lucrative fever dream that was as much a heist as it was a fight.

But that's been it. One could make the case McGregor's troubles outside the cage are almost as notorious as what he once did within it.

 

BIGGER THAN THE GAME

MCGREGOR STOPPED BEING a famous fighter a long time ago - he's just famous, famous in the way LeBron James or Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo and precious few other athletes are famous, famous enough to stop the world from turning so everyone can see what he's doing.

There are only so many people who will watch a cage fight, even one with Conor McGregor. Maybe millions of people will watch McGregor fight, but tens of millions will watch him lose his head and smash up a bus, as he did in 2018 in an effort to get at his hated rival, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

 

McGregor and Cristiano Ronaldo together.
McGregor and Cristiano Ronaldo together.

 

 

 

They'll see the legal troubles wrack up and watch the grainy videos of scraps on the streets or share the gaudy Instagram posts of McGregor's carefully curated excess. They will tune in to watch him fight Nurmagomedov in the biggest bout in UFC history and stick around to see the post-fight brawl between the two respective camps. They know him for the best and worst of reasons.

But eventually, a fighter must fight and he must fight well. Otherwise, if it's too long between drinks, he risks becoming just some guy on Instagram with a stack of flashy suits and a watch that cost more than your car who won't stop talking about how great he used to be.

The past is already written, the ink is dry on what McGregor has done before but the legend he sees in his dreams, the one he assures us still exists, must be forged anew with each fight. Otherwise, bit by bit, people start to forget.

Defeat to Poirier will not condemn McGregor to this fate. His fame is too robust to be decapitated with a single blow, but it would be a step further away from what he once was.

Such is the price of transcending the minor fame of most UFC fighters for McGregor's current place among the sporting pantheon. It doesn't come for free. McGregor understands better than almost anybody that fighting, like the rest of the world, deals in "what have you done for me lately".

 

 

 

THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME

THE NEW MCGREGOR doesn't need to talk or act like the old McGregor, he just needs to fight like him. McGregor is not guaranteed a walkover this weekend, and it seems as though he doesn't want one.

"Sometimes life gets in the way of things. Fighting is a big part of my life but there's a lot of personal things, a lot of business things, a lot going on," McGregor said.

"But I'm certainly back where I want to be the most, I've always been striving for competition even if I wasn't fully ready for it with so many other outside elements. I'm back where I need to be and I feel great about that.

"For sure, I'm the big whale around the town, I'm in the sea and when I shoot my blowhole out of the water it's a big lot of Proper Twelve whisky into the sky.

"But it was a lot of hard work, but we're still here, we're still moving.

 

 

 

"I'm very proud to be part of the company, it's the most valuable sporting franchise on planet earth and it wasn't easy to get to these heights.

"Short-notice fights, never backing down from a challenge, be it cross-promotion or cross-sports or multiple weight divisions I always stepped up, I always put the work in.

"I earned my spot here."

In some ways, McGregor arrives at the rematch with Poirier in a similar place to their first bout back in 2014. There was nothing he wouldn't do in those days, fighting with a spirit many long for him to recapture and of which there have been glimpses in his talk so far this week.

Back then, McGregor was only three fights into his UFC career. He'd never fought for a title and the world he's built for himself since, paved with gold and shining with fame, existed only in his own maniacal ravings, which he'd direct at Poirier, or anyone with a microphone who came close enough.

It was supposed to be the greatest test of his nascent UFC career, and McGregor blew through Poirier in one minute and 46 seconds of the first round. Just as he said he would.

This time he's aiming for less than a minute, which sounds like madness - but it's only madness if it doesn't come true and after beating Poirier the first time, McGregor became everything he said he would be, if not more.

 

 

 

"I certainly showed a lot of people up, for sure. I etched my name in this sport's folklore forever. Always and forever will McGregor's name will be at the pinnacle of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and I'm very proud of that," McGregor said.

"It's pretty crystal clear, Mystic Mac and the magic ball, I got it correct for sure and I'll continue to do so for sure.

"It will be a cleaner shot and a better time. But as far as our personality traits in our outside life - seven years is a long time, we're fathers now, for me I'm a lot more composed.

"I've been through a lot. I've been through it all and come out better for it.

"I've been looking at some of the stuff the UFC have posted, it's kind of similar. It's relaxed, it's calm, it's confidence - it feels similar enough to me to be honest.

"Granted, I've had my frenzied moments, it's well-documented. But I feel like I'm in the right space I need to be in."

McGregor is hopeful that space will lead him back to Nurmagomedov.

 

 

THE RUSSIAN ANTAGONIST

THE NURMAGOMEDOV BLOOD FEUD has consumed McGregor since his 2018 defeat, just one of two UFC losses McGregor has sustained during his time with the company.

Poirier is a dangerous fighter and not easily discounted. But questions about Nurmagomedov, the undefeated lightweight champion who grew up wrestling bears in the mountains of Dagestan and is considering retirement, will dominate the lead up to the fight. If McGregor wins they will hit a fever pitch.

 

 

 

That voice McGregor says he hates hearing will be doing an awful lot of talking - words can achieve more than punches, even a punch as deadly as McGregor's.

Nurmagomedov dominated their fight, even managing to drop McGregor with a clubbing right hand before securing a neck crank in the fourth. There is a chance that stylistically the fight is unwinnable for McGregor, a classic grappler vs striker showdown with an outcome as sure as paper beating rock, with the winding road towards revenge he sees in his mind leading nowhere but over the edge of a cliff.

For his part, McGregor is adamant he was far from himself at the time, that he got the best of Nurmagomedov while Nurmagomedov got the worst of him. Now, according to McGregor, the sleeper has awakened, and the Russian is paralysed by fear.

"I was in and out of court, in and out of legal situations. As far as the mental capacity was going there was a lot going on. I had a two-year hiatus from the sport, I wasn't a martial artist at that time," McGregor said.

 

 

 

 

 

"I would give his stand-up a lot more respect for sure and I would give his grappling and wrestling a lot more disrespect than I did in the first bout.

"There's many things to take in, and you take in the mental factors for what was going on in my outside life and then the nasty injury (a broken foot) weeks before.

"The world will see and like I've said before, the cream will always rise to the top. Time will tell and everyone will see what's what.

 

Watch Poirier v McGregor at UFC 257 live on Main Event on Foxtel and Kayo. Sunday 24 January at 2pm AEDT. ORDER NOW >

 

"As you can see, the guy's gone running. He's not about it. It's only going to become more evident as the days and the time and clock ticks down."

Such claims are common from fighters chasing rematches. But it doesn't so much matter if what McGregor says is true - what matters is he believes it is true. If he believes it (and he does) he can make others believe it. That, more than his thunderous left hand is his true superpower.

 

LISTENING TO THE VOICE

THE LOUDEST VOICE for McGregor, always, is the one inside his own head. It's what carried him to the top in the first place, what helped him stay there for a while and what is now guiding him as he attempts to turn the eyes of the world back to where he wants them to be.

"I've been internally working on myself for as long as I can remember," McGregor said.

"It's who we spend the most time with. I've always recognised this and I've always used it to my benefit.

"You can build up a serious amount of dedication, motivation and drive when you chat to yourself truly. I've done that and I've been doing that my entire career.

"I've been trying to encourage people to be comfortable in their surroundings, to celebrate yourself and your own little world and watch magic happen.

"It's worked for me."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as The one legacy McGregor wants to leave behind



Daily Catch-Up: February 27, 2021

Premium Content Daily Catch-Up: February 27, 2021

Today's local weather, funeral, and other notices in one place.

‘He lost a lot of blood’: Cop reveals harrowing ordeal

Premium Content ‘He lost a lot of blood’: Cop reveals harrowing ordeal

In the race to save a life, Jarrod French says every minute counts

North Coast hockey juniors prepare for national stage

Premium Content North Coast hockey juniors prepare for national stage

Grafton’s rich tradition of punching above its weight in the representative hockey...