Two months ago, all Conor McGregor did was win. He won in the octagon with ease and as a byproduct of his in-ring excellence and his boisterous persona, he became an international superstar and the face of MMA almost overnight.
Now, just over a month after McGregor’s first and only loss in the UFC, we’re on the precipice of the entire Conor McGregor paradigm changing drastically before our very eyes.
It all began with McGregor’s somewhat misguided but respectable attempt to fight Rafael Dos Anjos at the lightweight weight class and become the first UFC fighter in history to be a dual-weight champion.
It’s important to note that even though it hasn’t been done in the UFC before, the move to a higher weight class isn’t entirely unheard of in MMA as this SB Nation piece indicates. Still, the risks are well outlined as well.
“I think it will not be a smart decision for him,” Dos Anjos said before their scheduled bout. Sure, typical bluster from an opponent, but boy was he ever right.
Anyway, as the story goes, McGregor ended up fighting Nate Diaz at welterweight after an injury sidelined Dos Anjos, meaning McGregor fought at a higher weight class for a non-title opportunity.
Sure, the injury to Dos Anjos was just bad luck and McGregor couldn’t have predicted that he’d end up fighting with no shot at a title and losing to Diaz. But that initial decision to fight at the a higher weight class has started to unravel McGregor in a way nobody saw coming, but perhaps should have.
Pride, it would appear, was to be the precursor to a fall yet again.
Now fast forward a few weeks from his loss and instead of defending his featherweight title, he’s defending his pride in a title-less rematch with Diaz at UFC 200. He’s wasting his energy, resources – the prime of his fighting career even – trying to repair his bruised ego by beating a man he wasn’t even supposed to fight in a weight class that he might just be mismatched in
Jump forward a few more weeks to today and suddenly that fight – if it even happens – is the least of his problems.
McGregor, through a series of miscalculated social media posts, has moved up from an uphill battle against a welterweight opponent, to an impossible bout against a super heavyweight in Dana White and the UFC.
After McGregor tweeted his ‘retirement’ last week, sending shockwaves around the fighting world, he rescinded it with a misguided and rambling diatribe about the banalities of promoting UFC 200 and the various ways in which it would hamper his ability to actually fight in the bout.
Not surprisingly, his meager attempt at squirming out of promotion on the merit of ‘fighting the good fight’ against being a corporate shill for UFC was met with the expected denial from White and UFC.
Either way, McGregor miscalculated, and simply announcing he wasn’t retiring wasn’t enough to get him back on the card for UFC 200.
So naturally, he let his ego take the wheel once more in a desperate attempt to get back onto the UFC 200 card.
While McGregor tweeted what he might have thought was a haymaker, he failed to connect, and is now completely and utterly exposed.
There was only one possible motive for McGregor’s latest tweet and that was to force White and UFC’s hand by winning in the court of public opinion. This, was a monumentally larger misstep than trying to fight at the welterweight level.
This was a fighter thinking he’s bigger than the UFC. This was McGregor’s ego – as it did when he sacrificed his undefeated record – taking control and setting the fighter on a collision course with disaster.
Now, there’s no telling how White proceeds from here, but a guess is that he doesn’t let McGregor back into UFC 200 even if he promotes the gig on every single television show from here to Buffalo (‘Tim and Suzie’ included).
As ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported, McGregor is worth an estimated $45 million to the UFC 200 card, which is plenty of incentive for White to forgive McGregor’s transgressions and allow him back onto the docket.
But all the cheese isn’t worth the humiliation and the message it sends to other fighters if White lets McGregor back onto into the fight.
White will send a message that no man or woman is bigger than the brand.
The question moving forward, is will McGregor allow his ego to keep dragging him into fights he just can’t win?
Will he do what White asks to make sure he’s back in the UFC’s good graces and back where he belongs, fighting in front of millions around the world? Or will egomania reign supreme and keep McGregor heading down a road that likely ends ruinously?
For his sake, and the sport’s sake, hopefully he comes around. UFC is infinitely better when he’s in the fold. But if he wants to stay in the spotlight in a sport where it’s bouncing around from star to star constantly, he’ll have to start acting intelligently and not purely egotistically.
Because having a big ego and a larger than life personality comes with one caveat in the world of sports… You have to win. His ego got him to this point, but now it’s in danger of destroying him as his second straight loss – this one to the UFC – looms large.
One of the hallmarks of any great fighter is never backing down and standing brave in the face of imminent demise.
But another one is knowing how to pick your fights and knowing when to call it quits.
In this bout, McGregor would be wise to tap out before he suffers irreparable damage.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story misstated which weight class the McGregor/Dos Anjos fight would be taking place at.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.