McGregor dared to be great – nothing wrong with that
In 1975, when the 41st fight round between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier was over, crowned by their third epic fight, better known as “Thrilla in Manila”, two of the biggest heavyweight boxers have ever let down their guard after punishing each other physically and verbally for years.
“I always bring out the best in men I fight, but Joe Frazier, I’m going to tell the world right now, bring out the best in me,” said Ali. “I’ll tell you, he’s a Helluva man, and God bless him.”
“Dude, I hit him with punches that would knock down the walls of a city,” said Frazier. “Lawdy, Lawdy, he’s a great champion.”
That’s what a ring or an octagon can share, whether it’s five laps or five minutes, and it was the case on Saturday night after Nate Diaz stirred Conor McGregor’s presentation in the second round. Of course, their battle was not “Thrilla”, but it was a full-blown thriller, filled with twists, blood and drama, and finally, a sudden and spectacular ending. And with the final verdict rendered, McGregor and Diaz, filled with all kinds of acrimony towards each other before the night of the fight, shook hands and gave themselves the respect that only the fighters know.
A day later, the buzz only intensified on the result, largely on the apparent “fall” of the UFC featherweight champion from Ireland. But McGregor, who made his welterweight debut, makes no excuses, steals nothing from his opponent’s biggest victory in his career, his most telling statement being the simplest.
“I took a chance to gain weight and it didn’t work.”
It wasn’t, but oh, how lucky he was. In boxing, a change from 145 pounds to 170 pounds constitutes a jump from four weight classes. The jump at the UFC is no less daunting, especially when it comes to less than two weeks’ notice against a seasoned veteran who has competed at the highest level in the sport four times before.
Nate Diaz was no joke, and he proved it again, because the punches that dropped feather weights bloodied and bruised him, but refused to dent his chin . And once the welterweight punches started to shatter McGregor’s defense, the 27-year-old was in a place he had never been since joining the UFC list in 2013.
It was the beauty of the fight and McGregor’s willingness to dare to be tall. Long perceived by many as a character, created by the media and the Irish fans who will follow him everywhere, no one disputes what he put into play last Saturday when he was not obliged to do so. He could easily have decided to sit down with Dos Anjos injured and wait for a place on the UFC 200 card for July. He could have chosen, months earlier, to stay at 145 pounds. It is not fair to say that it was safe, but it is correct to say that with his attempt to advance to welterweight, he was doing what few people expected a “media creation” do.
But that’s what fighters do, and although McGregor is more than adept at speaking, when it comes to taking risks in the fighting game, he doesn’t see what others are seeing. In fact, he doesn’t even consider the risk, which is confirmed by his friend and main training partner Artem Lobov.
“He’s just a fighter,” said Lobov last week. “He is a true martial artist, and the martial arts are not about weight classes. If anything, he’s a little guy who can beat the biggest opponent. This is how martial arts were invented. His attitude is therefore f ** k weight classes, forget it all. Enter and fight. Do what you are trained for. “
McGregor did it on Saturday night. He dared. He fought. He lost. Many celebrated. Many have called it a hype. He is not. He is human. And like Ali after losing to Frazier in their first fight in 1971, he could end up being even more popular before.
Why? Because perfection is boring.