If you are not a mixed martial arts fan that’s okay. Chances are you feel as if the sport is too violent or maybe you are more of a boxing purist. Usually, it is one or the other. One thing you should know by now though is who Conor McGregor is. He is easily the biggest name in the fight game currently and is also the biggest name in UFC history and it isn’t even close.
McGregor has helped drive the sport of MMA into a new era. One that features “money fights” the likes of which we never thought we would see. When the original idea of the money fight between Floyd Mayweather and McGregor first gained steam, I thought this was the silliest idea ever. McGregor was going to get taken to school. The fight wouldn’t even be a fight. It was going to be the ultimate fighting sideshow and with the money that McGregor makes from the fight, he definitely wasn’t going to fight again. What I came to realize after the fight was announced though, is that it would actually be fun.
The world press tour offered some moments that will stand the test of time. Most of them I got to witness first hand in Toronto. As I was waiting in the hallway right outside the entrance Floyd came out the other way, which made me wonder to myself: will Conor walked passed me? He did, and to see “The Notorious” Conor McGregor up close was as if I was seeing some mythical creature that I didn’t believe had existed. I have met plenty of pro athletes in my time from all major sports, it was nothing compared to being in the same space as McGregor. When I tell people it was an experience unlike any other I truly mean it. I had never seen so much enthusiasm for a fight. The patented McGregor one-liners were flowing. The merchandise was flying off the shelves and, boom, I was reeled in. They got me. The fight buildup was fantastic, McGregor didn’t get taken to school and the fight was a legitimate fight. But on things I was right about: we may never see Conor McGregor in a UFC octagon again. Deep down do I truly believe we will? I am currently sitting here writing this article with a 50/50 feeling.
As I said from the top, the Mayweather vs McGregor bout took place in August. We are now in a new year here in January and closing time is about to commence. UFC President Dana White has doubled down on his claims that McGregor could potentially be stripped of his second title for the second time if he does decide to come back for the UFC 222 card in Las Vegas on March 3. The card is already booked with a big fight Max Halloway versus Frankie Edgar but according to many reports, the UFC was hoping to put two belts on the line for one night. Conor McGregor versus Tony Ferguson for the UFC Lightweight strap and the Halloway versus Edgar fight for the Featherweight strap. That would be nice but as the days pass by it appears less and less likely that McGregor will meet what I call ” Dana White’s ultimate ultimatum.”
While White provided McGregor with an ultimatum, I do understand why Conor wouldn’t return and the funny thing is Dana understands it as well. White recently said to the media: “would you want to get punched in the face if you have 100 million dollars”. The answer for everyone is no. So if McGregor has fought his last fight, if he has taken the money and ran. I get it. Does that mean I like it? Of course not.
The word legacy in sports is thrown around a lot for football players like Tom Brady and baseball players like Derek Jeter. We as sports fans talk legacy each and every time we get the chance to. We compare competitors of the past to those of the present. It is an ever-flowing process. When we analyze McGregor’s legacy we should see him as the biggest name that the sport has ever seen and the only man in UFC history to hold two belts at one time, even though he only held two titles for 18 days before the UFC took the featherweight title from him. Now if McGregor does not come back by March he will have his belt taken away and the UFC is discussing a bout between current interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson versus the undefeated Russian superstar Khabib Nurmagomedov for UFC 223, which takes place in Brooklyn on April 7.
The legacy of McGregor would be pretty uneven in my eyes. On one hand, he won two belts in two weight classes, on the other but he never defended either title and both were taken away from him. Not a good look. Especially when the Irishman has doubled down on why he needs to come back saying to “shut that side up.” Yet here we are, still waiting. I guess Conor McGregor has 100,000,002 million reasons to say no and that’s a shame. The two extra reasons being Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov who have long been looked at as the two toughest fighters that McGregor could face.
For now, it appears McGregor rose just as fast as he vanished. And yet, the fight game is in the palm of his hand. It’s your move, Conor McGregor.