Ever since Connor McGregor’s explosive arrival into the bear pit of MMA and UFC, he has courted controversy and divided public opinion with his attitude and approach towards the most unforgiving of sports.
Arrogant, cocky, offensive, and disrespectful are just a few of the accusations that are levelled at the notorious one on a daily basis.
Multiple encounters with the law also suggest that McGregor has sailed perilously close to the wind in both his personal and professional life, and it seems that wherever he now goes there is drama lurking around the very next corner.
However, when placed under the microscope it would suggest that his career is a tale of triumph and inspiration. A man who dared to dream of a life outside the monotony of the rat race, a fighter who bucked the trend and set out to achieve his dreams through sheer desire and an unshakable belief in his own ability to become a superstar in the world of MMA.
Going against the wishes of his own father, McGregor believed in the power of positive thinking and gave up life as a plumber from an early age, pouring his heart and soul into the notion of becoming Ireland’s first fighting megastar. He was eventually signed to a UFC contract in 2013.
What followed was an unstoppable march to greatness, as McGregor’s star begun to shine majestically bright with one fight of the night performance after another. Coupled with his magnetic personality, it was hard to keep your eyes away from the the new Irish sensation, who not only talked the talk but would also strut the walk.
A World Championship opportunity eventually presented itself against the UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo, who had reigned supreme for seven long years with an eighteen fight undefeated streak.
McGregor brazenly predicted that Aldo would be knocked out within 10 seconds of the first round. Few could comprehend such disrespect to a humble and popular legend like Jose Aldo, and he was lambasted for his disrespect and foolhardy prediction.
McGregor would silence the naysayers once again however, as he delivered on his outrageous prophecy, dropping Aldo to the canvas with a knock out left hook after thirteen seconds of the opening bell. A new champion was crowned as a brave new dawn had risen in the UFC.
A fresh and captivating era in the sport was ushered in thereafter, as McGregor drew new eyes and ears to an already immensely popular sport. With his media appearance’s and marketability sending PPV buy rates through the roof anytime he headlined an event.
His pursuit of glory and legendary status would lead him to chase after a second championship at Lightweight, whilst still in possession of the Featherweight title, a feat never accomplished by any male or female in UFC history.
What followed was two thrilling brawls with Nate Diaz after initial opponent and reigning Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos had to withdrew from the proposed bout with injury.
Diaz would win the first bout via tap out after a remarkable stand up brawl between the two, which left fight fans instantly clamoring for a rematch. McGregor emerged from the second clash narrowly victorious, with both showdown’s a monumental success in buy rates and media buzz.
Eddie Alvarez was McGregor’s next adversary as the quest to be double champion would not be denied. He subsequently dismantled Alvarez inside two rounds to become reigning World Lightweight and Featherweight Champion. Remarkably holding titles in two different weight classes simultaneously.
Eventually he would relinquish both belts and went on to face Floyd Mayweather in a much publicised Boxing match which he would lose in the 10th round. It was a highly commendable performance however, and it would further enforce his unmistakable self belief to face up to the most monumental challenges in combat sports head on.
When pouring over these facts I feel that that it is certainly not unjust to place Connor McGregor alongside the likes of Anderson Silva and George St Pierre as the greatest athlete of all time in UFC.
Each of those fighters dominated their division for a far superior timeframe, but did not possess the ability to draw a crowd like the brash and unreservedly unapologetic McGregor. Whilst neither held two titles at different weights simultaneously as previously mentioned.
It now remains to be seen whether the notorious one can reclaim the glories of yesteryear after returning from multiple apparent retirements. He has lost to both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirer in convincing fashion, and here I believe lies the conundrum.
As is the case with elite level sports and in life itself, time passes by in the blink of an eye. Before we know it the gladiators of the past are chased down, and eventually overthrown by the new wave of hungry young pretenders to the throne, such is the great circle of life.
Stronger, badder, and fitter adversaries are always sure to chase the dream just as hard as Connor did himself in his earlier years. But it is a familiar tale in any sporting genre that once you scale the mountain top it often becomes even harder to maintain your threshold there. As motivation often tends to evaporate over the course of time, where the thrill of the chase can often outweigh the final conclusion.
Thus, it is now up to Connor himself if he wishes to either step aside for the new breed or make a stand to reclaim his kingdom.
The choice is certainly a tough one and echoes one of my favorite films of all time Rocky III, as the Italian Stallion ponders walking away from Boxing after a crushing loss to the fearless young upstart Clubber Lang.
Crippled by self doubt, he has money in the bank and riches beyond his wildest dreams, yet Rocky still makes the choice to come back and reclaim glory from his enemy. Personal pride and the hunt for success would mean more to him than fame and fortune ever could.
McGregor now faces a similar crossroads in his career, and must chose wisely which path he wishes to tread down next, as he relaxes in his Las Vegas based mansion that he has undoubtedly earned.
To re-discover that motivation requires a unique mindset, and as we speak he has signed on for the trilogy fight with Dustin Poirer as he attempts to make amends for his most recent defeat. If Connor emerges victorious it will be fascinating as always to see what he has set his sights on next.
However, I do believe that if he commits wholeheartedly to the next phase of his career, like he has done so in his pomp, then we could possibly see the resurgence of one of the greatest of all time in the UFC.
In closing, it is evident that Connor McGregor has walked a metaphorical tightrope throughout the duration of his personal life, and now many believe he will do so with the legacy of his own career, if his stubborn refusal to submit to old father time results in failure in the octagon.
Personally, I believe that if he should ultimately fall short in his return to arms it should not cast any doubt or aspersions over his huge achievements and impact in both MMA and UFC.
Rather than be derided for any future failings, he should be celebrated as a man who defied convention and became the most must see fighter of his generation, and for that reason I hope that his decision to fight on in such an unrelenting profession garners the respect it so fully deserves.
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