“Three years ago, you was supernatural. You was hard and nasty. You had this cast-iron jaw. But then, the worst thing happened to you that can happen to any fighter: you got civilised.”
Mickey Goldmill to Rocky Balboa in Rocky III, before he got destroyed by Clubber Lang. Dana White to Conor McGregor at UFC 257, after he got destroyed by Dustin Poirier.
“There’s two ways this goes: [he returns] hungrier or ‘I’m done’. He’s got the money,” White said. “I’m a huge Rocky fan and this is like Rocky III. When you get off a 310-foot yacht and are living that good life, it’s tough to be a savage. On his way up, he was a young, hungry kid, didn’t have any money and wanted nice things; suits, cars, houses. He has everything he ever wanted, so I don’t know.”
McGregor, the former apprentice plumber and welfare recipient turned yacht enthusiast, hadn’t fought in a year. He claimed last June – again – that he’d retired, walking away from the blood-stained octagon floor in the finest shoes that money could buy.
He claimed to have worked incredibly hard for the Poirier fight, parking the Rolls Royces, gold watches and fine suits, but it takes just the slightest hint of weakness against an opponent like ‘The Diamond’ to be brutally punished.
So it proved. The second-round defeat was McGregor’s first by KO/TKO. We knew that he was vulnerable on the ground but this time, he allowed his front leg to be destroyed then ate power punches as he wobbled.
He lay dazed long after the fight was stopped.
It was an ugly loss that imploded McGregor’s last claim to remaining one of the UFC’s elite: his mantle as a regal, indomitable striker, with those stinging hands that stripped belts from Eddie Alvarez and Jose Aldo.
The signs were there; Nate Diaz rocked ‘The Notorious’ before he choked him out and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fists more than held their own.
The UFC lightweight division has long been murderer’s row. McGregor never defended his 155lbs belt and has been sadly inactive but ultimately, he’s never dodged big fights.
Yet since vacating his titles, he has been found wanting. Mystic Mac no more; he claimed he’d destroy Poirier inside a minute.
Nurmagomedov choked him out. Poirier knocked him out. McGregor initially said that he was “gutted” by the Poirier loss but later, admitted to an unfamiliar feeling that casts doubt on his ability to rise again.
“I’m not that upset, which is another weird one for me. I put in an immense amount of work and gave it my all,” he said.
Not that upset? It was a somewhat startling admission. Certainly not Eye of the Tiger stuff and far removed from his ferociously ambitious heyday, though McGregor is generally a gracious loser.