Monday, August 2

What is Conor McGregor’s legacy? UFC 264 fighters discuss their impact

“When you sign up to fight me, it’s a celebration. You call home, you call your wife. ‘Honey, we did it. We’re rich, honey, Conor McGregor made us rich. Break the red panties!'”

Those were Conor McGregor’s words in 2015 after headlining his first pay-per-view against Chad Mendes for the UFC interim featherweight title. What he said it would be prophetic; The Irishman went on to break box office records not only as the biggest attraction in the UFC, but also as the biggest attraction in all combat sports.

And it’s not even close.

McGREGOR-POIRIER 3: date, time, odds, pay-per-view price, card and location for UFC 264

Six years after McGregor introduced the world to “The Night of the Red Panties,” he enters his fight against Dustin Poirier at a crossroads. He began his UFC career at 145 pounds with a 7-0 record and six knockouts, including a surprising 13-second knockout of then-champion Jose Aldo, but he hasn’t had the same strength in the Octagon since.

He bit off more than he could chew when he climbed to 170 pounds to face Nate Diaz, who subdued him in the second round. Of course, he became the first fighter to hold world titles in two weight classes when he defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship in 2016. And he somehow managed to box Floyd Mayweather in the second-largest pay-per-view of all. time. .

But he’s only been 3-3 in the UFC in the past five years, and a litany of legal troubles has nearly overshadowed his ability. He’s still a huge draw, but there are plenty of questions after his knockout loss to Poirier in January.

And if you’re on the losing side of this trilogy fight, one has to wonder if the McGregor era has come to an end.

But regardless of the outcome in Las Vegas on Saturday, McGregor’s legacy has been firmly established. He is a game changer and the fighters admit they have borrowed a lot from his playbook. Whether it’s talking trash or figuring out how to promote themselves outside of the UFC, all mixed martial artists want what McGregor has. Even if they are not fighting McGregor, being in the same event as the Irishman results in a residual effect that is unlike anything they have experienced. The energy is unmatched and the exposure is unmatched.

“I told myself it had to come to this. Watching that fight was the pinnacle of my life,” said middleweight Dricus Du Plessis, who went from attending McGregor’s fight with Donald Cerrone last January as a fan to share a billboard with him. “Mystic Mac”. “And now I’m fighting in the preliminaries.”

If you’ve never had a chance to attend a Conor McGregor fight, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in mixed martial arts. It is not just a fight; it is an event that holds people’s attention. A McGregor fight finds media outlets that rarely, if ever, cover the sport asking for access. You don’t need a passing interest in MMA to realize that a fight with Conor McGregor is a big deal. And that’s why so many fighters want to fight him or appear in an event that he headlines.

“I think the eyes he brings in is something different,” said Gilbert Burns, who will face Stephen Thompson in the UFC 264 co-main event. “Me and most of the guys know that Conor is a big star. We know there is I’m going to have a lot of eyes on that card and I’m in the co-main event. “

Consider this: McGregor has been the main event in seven of the top 10 best-selling UFC pay-per-views of all time. If you include boxing, there are only two names that are consistently in the top 10 pay-per-views of all time: Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. His value to the company is undeniable, to the point where even potential rivals expect McGregor to emerge victorious against Poirier.

“I want him to win because every time he wins is good for the sport,” said Ilia Topuria, who will face Ryan Hall in the UFC 264 preliminaries. “It is good for me and for all the competitors in the UFC. I hope he wins.” .

Topuria is not wrong in his assessment. As long as McGregor continues to win, the UFC will remain the center of attention. Of course, the former two-division world champion eventually put MMA promotion in his shadow and turned into a business himself. Some believe his antics outside the Octagon have played a role in his recent outings. But no one is willing to unhitch their car from the McGregor train just yet.

Like Mike Tyson before him, volatility is part of the appeal. When you’re not throwing a doll out of a bus window or defending yourself against sexual assault allegations, you’re engaged in a war of words with your rival about donating to a charity or profiting heavily from their whiskey sales.

It’s a walking viral moment that can spring into action at any moment. These things could eventually catch up with him and be his downfall, but until then, everyone is just enjoying the ride.

The UFC may be aware that McGregor’s time may be coming to an end and it will take a new star who combines skill in the Octagon with personality outside of it. Many have tried, but few have the mix of skill, power and the gift of the word.

Fighters like Sean O’Malley, 26, have pulled pages out of McGregor’s playbook and seen his stocks rise. O’Malley is possibly the closest thing the UFC has to a crossover star. He’s young, boisterous, and eccentric, and every fighter wants a piece of “The Suga Show.”

He’ll be in a prime position to increase his shares when he opens the UFC 264 PPV card against Kris Moutinho. Although unranked, he has amassed more than 1.5 million followers on Instagram with his viral knockouts, unique personality, and enough volatility to wow audiences, for better or worse.

I’ve seen each and every interview [McGregor has] ever done and all his fights multiple times, “O’Malley told Sporting News.” A lot of people try to say that I’m trying to be like Conor, but you can have two people with similar personalities. I’ve definitely taken bits and pieces to learn from, which is a smart thing to do. It has inspired me a lot. “

Whether you believe McGregor is on the short list of great fighters pound for pound or you think he is the beneficiary of having the stars properly align in his favor, the fact is that he has made his mark on the sport. Often imitated but never duplicated, the Mystic Mac legacy is already set in stone. The only question that remains is: Can he recapture past glory inside the Octagon, or have we already seen the best of Conor McGregor?

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