Conor McGregor deemed UFC 189 the “McGregor Show” and then delivered the best UFC PPV card ever.
Not one fight on the UFC 189 card went to the judges and no fight, even though a few came close, captured the MMA world like McGregor-Mendes. The hype leading up to the fight was incredible considering it only had a 2 week build up, but that’s the McGregor effect. Every person he fights gets wrangled into a verbal jousting contest which helps build the mystique of the fight. Mendes was no different heading into UFC 189 and he was quite confident that his mix of KO power and wrestling technique would be too much for McGregor. He proved to have the correct gameplan to challenge McGregor but he under-estimated how the Irishman would adjust to his wrestle-heavy approach.
In the first round Mendes took Conor down twice with two huge takedowns, which meant all of Conor’s striking prowess was negated. For the brief times they were on their feet Conor showed the ability to string together clean combinations but Mendes also landed a few good overhand rights that landed on Conor’s chin.
The second round saw Chad land an early takedown and control Conor on the ground for most of the round. It was every McGregor fan’s worst nightmare, a wrestler dominating their guy on the ground. During that time both fighters traded elbows. Conor with impressive elbows to the head of Mendes while laying on his back and Mendes with thunderous elbows from top control. It seemed as though Chad had found the weakness of Conor and was going to grind this fight out for 5 rounds.
It all changed when Chad went for a choke with a little over a minute left in the 2nd round and McGregor was able to slip the hold. McGregor spring to his feet, wiped his long hair from his eyes and began to stalk the exhausted Mendes. When the clock showed 1:00 left in the round Mendes backed himself against the cage and placed both hands on his hips. His chest rising and falling in slow motion as he tried to recapture the energy he had at the beginning of the fight.
Conor noticed his body language right away. It’s as though he has an internal DBZ energy sensor and could see Mendes’ levels drop to empty. He waisted no time taking the fight to Chad and connecting with numerous combinations. It culminated when a left cross hit Chad on the chin with a little over 10 seconds remaining in the round. Just as Conor predicted weeks before.
“I’ll be aiming for the chin… I’ll knock him out by the 2nd round.”
That come from behind victory is exactly what McGregor needed to cement his early legacy and show that he belongs at the top of the featherweight division. In one night McGregor went from “not fighting anyone” or “dodging wrestlers” in the eyes of his doubters to being the interim champion and defeating the best wrestler in the division.
Conor McGregor is on top of the MMA world and his polarizing persona will keep him their as long as he continues to deliver inside of the octagon.
What’s more impressive than his work inside of the cage last night were the records Conor broke. UFC 189 had the highest gate, $7.2 million, in UFC history. Early PPV numbers also indicate that UFC 189 broke the 1 million buys mark, a milestone for UFC cards. The final stats probably won’t surpass UFC 100 but his even more anticipated match up with Jose Aldo should.
It’s hard to think of a time when one man carried the bulk of the promo for a fight card like McGregor. Trips to NYC and Bristol a week before the fight to build hype for his new opponent, that’s unheard of in sports. McGregor did that without complaint and profited from the sacrifice.
“Everytime I do media and I say I hate it, I’m never doing this again. Then I get the check and say okay I’ll do it one more time.”
The only fighter to have such a sudden impact on the UFC is Brock Lesnar and even he carried over an audience from pro wrestling. There may not have been a more dynamic athlete and personality than McGregor but at this stage of his career many are to afraid to pose the question. Why not consider the possibility that Conor is already the biggest star in UFC history?
His ability to promote fights, the international fan base he brings from Ireland, the dominance he’s shown in the octagon since arriving in the UFC, all are examples of Conor’s greatness and all are comparable to past UFC stars.
Brock’s MMA record was only 5-3, how can he be considered the fighter McGregor already is? Anderson Silva didn’t become a star until Chael Sonnen trash talked him and did the promoting of the fight. GSP had the Canadian fan base behind him but they are nowhere near the force of McGregor’s irish fan base.
Conors matches or trumps these legends already and his biggest fight is still ahead of him.
I’m sure Dana White will call upon his shiny new star in a few months to hype up the unification fight and McGregor will answer like Bruce Wayne answers the bat signal. MMA’s Batman & commissioner Gordon, McGregor & White. Together they can take the UFC to new heights; last night was just the first glimpse of the future. The ‘McGregor Show’ has just begun.