Conor McGregor in 2016, his meteoric rise prior to that, and do Irish People actually like him??
2016 – The year of the comeback
Conor McGregor had a big year in 2016, he had 3 big fights. The first fight
was a huge upset when he tapped out to Nate Diaz and lost. The second, probably one of the best UFC fights I have ever seen. Where it went the distance, and McGregor managed to hold on in the 5th Round and just about won it on a tight points decision. The third, and most recent, where he wiped the floor with Alvarez. And KO’d him in the second round.
So let’s have a look at firstly these 3 recent fights
Then we’ll take a look at his story prior to that and his meteoric rise in the sport. While also taking a look at the perception of him back home in Ireland.
In McGregor’s first fight of 2016 against Nate he was wilfully exposed as he went for the spectacular knockout early on in the fight. It back fired in spectacular fashion as he ran out of gas after realising that Nate was able to take his big left handers. He then panicked when Nate did go on the offensive and got McGregor to ground and submitted him.
In fairness to McGregor, he was humble in defeat. Accepted that the better man had won on the day, and was open and sincere about how he felt after the defeat saying that he was simply heartbroken.
So, from here he went on to the re-match
This as it turned out was a fight for the ages. Without doubt the best UFC fight I have ever watched, and one of the best fights I have ever watched across all disciplines.
They pretty much went toe to toe for 5 rounds. McGregor landing the better and cleaner hits throughout. But Nate then came back strongly in the 5th and landed a lot of his shots, and started getting on top of the bout. But as it turned out though the end came at the right time for McGregor. He leaned against the cage grappling with Nate, looking up at the clock waiting for the bell. Had it gone another 60 to 90 seconds I expect McGregor would have lost as he had clearly nothing left in the tank.
But to give him credit, he deserved the win. As he played a strategic fight, and to add, it was not his natural weight class.
The 3rd fight
Against Alavarez, was the most clinical and impressive. The Sports Betting sites had it pretty close but had McGregor as the favourite.
McGregor absolutely dominated the fight from the outset. In many ways this was the perfect opponent for McGregor. Alvarez was the shorter of the two, with a much shorter reach. He played into McGregor’s hands by getting caught up in a boxing match. But the truth is Alvarez never really got a chance to utilise his ground game because McGregor was too nimble and fast for him. The one time Alvarez did get in against him on the cage McGregor was too slippery for him, and managed to wriggle free before knocking him out.
McGregor had learned a lot from his first fight with Nate. He had learned to be more strategic, and not always’s trying to rush the fight with a quick knockout. While also playing to his strengths which is boxing and avoid been brought to the ground. As this is where he is most vulnerable as his ground game is not as strong and can be prone to submissions.
All in all, it was a comprehensive win. In turn showing that he was very much back to the top of his game and back to his old self-promoting obnoxious self.
McGregor, and how he came to the fore so quickly…….
The last man to beat McGregor before Nate was Joe Duffy. He beat him by submission in 38 seconds before McGregor signed up to the UFC. Joe Duffy is from the same place as me, Co. Donegal, Ireland, and it is where our online sports platform is based – Playnbrag.
McGregor referred to him as a journey man as he switched disciplines from boxing to MMA. And in fairness, if the 2 of them were put in the ring now, McGregor would most probably win. As his all-round skill set as come on leaps and bounds since then. That said it, would make for a great fight.
The thing is this, McGregor success is closely linked to Dana White’s (President and former co-owner of the UFC) remarkable sharp sales and marketing acumen of the organisation.
He saw, early on, that here was a kid that could fight, and could also help bring the sport to another level. Whereby utilising McGregor’s (and Ronda Rousey) fighting skill set, and their very marketable personas, to help scale the business and bring it to a global audience.
If McGregor is the trash talker, the showman, the headliner of the UFC, then Dana White is the brains.
Dana White recently sold his stake in the business for 100’s of millions of dollars and is tied in for a further 5 years to help scale the business and bring it to a global audience.
There is no doubting Mc Gregor’s raw talent, and sheer punching ability, not just with his power, but also his incredible accuracy with combinations.
The only fighter I remember seeing having such accuracy with combinations was Mike Tyson in his heyday. The knockout of Jose Aldo was all the more impressive in that it was so fast. It was executed with such speed and accuracy that you needed television re-plays to actually see the knockout punch. Throw in to the equation that Aldo was an undefeated champion in the weight class for over a decade and it really puts it into perspective.
But for me Dana White was absolutely instrumental in the metoric rise and success of McGregor. He knew who to match him with when he was first introduced. And then fast tracked him to a title shot early on with Aldo when he still had only a handful of fights recorded in the UFC.
He knew he was the complete package. Both from a fighter perspective, and more importantly from a spectator and fans perspective. The perfect marketing vehicle for the UFC.
I remember watching an early documentary on Conor McGregor a few years back. He went to visit Las Vegas, Dana White, and the UFC, for the first time when he was signing for them.
Even at that early stage he was given the special treatment by Dana and co. . They were all too aware even then, of what he could bring to the table. And so it proved for both parties.
The irony – Biting the Hand that Feeds
It’s quite ironic now looking back at that early footage, and documentaries, in how McGregor’s star and stock have risen since.
You might have been mistaken that McGregor actually owned the entire UFC in the immediate aftermath of his KO of Alavarez. Demanding both belts immediately so that this supposedly historic moment could be recorded live on the TV air waves.
He is now seeking equity in the company, a pretty audacious move. The owners are probably looking on thinking who does this punk think he is.
But from a business perspective, he know’s his worth and his value to the UFC marketing machine. So it’s probably a smart move. That said, I don’t think the owners will entertain it for a second.
Do Irish People actually like Him??
We all know that he is a great fighter and has proven it at 2 different weight levels.
But do people really like him?
What is the perception of him back home in Ireland??
There is no doubt that he has a huge fan base, especially amongst the U.S. and Irish American Fans, and with his peers back home in Ireland.
And to be fair, he goes out of his ways for his fans and interacts with them on a down to earth level. In an era where most of the stars in UFC (and many other sports) remain aloof and distant from their own fan base.
But one thing I do know that in Ireland the opinion of him is very much divided
Some like his showmanship, and bravado, whereas a lot admire his absolute self-belief, and his fighting skills and technique. This is especially evident among his peers where they look up to him as someone that truly believes in himself. Where he proves that dreams are possible through hard work, determination, and absolute focus bordering on the obsession.
The other side of the coin in Ireland is, people at home don’t like the obnoxious attitude, the brashness, the lack of humility, the lack of respect for opponents, the constant cursing and so on.
To sum it up
There remains a large porportion of the Irish Public that don’t like the way he seems to present himself where it can be trashy and cheap at times. Showing a distinct lack of respect for everyone and everything.
Some people feel that if he is going to represent Ireland, that it should be done in a way that is reflective of the way we ourselves behave at home. And to be honest, anyone at home behaving in this manner wouldn’t be given much time.
He is after all now a role model for many young men both in Ireland, the U.S. and Canada. So some now feel that he needs to be more accountable for the way he presents himself in public.
For sure, there needs to be an element of show business when promoting and doing post fight speeches and interviews. But he can still do all of that with all the charisma he has, and still keep it real. But just do it with a bit more respect and class.
One thing I did notice in 2016
Is that there were less newspaper column inches on McGregor in Ireland as 2016 went on, and not more. Which should not have been the case if you take into account his success over the past year.
This might be down to the mere fact that a lot of people don’t care for McGregor or what he does. Certainly within the older generations (over 30’s) there seems to be less time and attention for him probably in a large part due to his antics.
Ok, he won the RTE sport’s personality of the year. But he was always going to win that when the other candidates he was up against did not have the same global profile that he had. As a result he had a much larger active fan base that voted for him due to his exposure.
There was also a scathing reaction from others when it was announced.
I was surprised to see recently that he did a questions and answers session after a UFC event up in Belfast the week after he had beaten Alvarez. He deserves huge credit for taking time out to engage with the original fan base that has made him so famous. But what I was surprised at was how little fanfare, media attention or hype it generated here in Ireland. He is after all a World Champions in two weight divisions in UFC.
When Barry McGuigan won the one and only Featherweight World Boxing title in London in 1985 – the whole of Ireland was brought to a standstill. He also had a massive homecoming which drew thousands.
For what it’s worth
McGregor needs to be more Irish first. Before he can truly win over Irish People. The brash and obnoxious way just doesn’t wash with a lot of people at home. The laid back, understated, and charming way, is the only way we know this side of the pond.
Maybe one day he will changes his ways and become a more popular sports person at home.
Or maybe he won’t bother. As in his own words he likes to state – “I don’t give a **ck!”
But deep down we all do, and we all want to be loved, especially by our own….
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