Tuesday, January 18

Why Conor McGregor’s injury at UFC 264 was the best thing that could have happened to him

LAS VEGAS – It wasn’t the end that no one could have predicted. Conor McGregor lost by TKO to Dustin Poirier at UFC 264 when a rare leg injury brought the fight to a halt late in the first round.

It was a strange ending that made for an even more unusual scene when McGregor threatened to kill Poirier and hurled insults at his wife while sitting on the mat to stabilize her broken lower tibia. It was clear that this rivalry that reached a fever pitch over the past week is far from over.

Poirier will take home the rather unsatisfying victory, although he has prepared for a UFC lightweight title shot against champion Charles Oliveira. McGregor will be heading into surgery and will be sidelined for the foreseeable future.

And you know what? This is perhaps the best setting for the Irishman.

MORE: Full Results, UFC 264 Highlights

Obviously, no one wants to see an injured fighter the way McGregor was. However, this injury extends his lifespan as a superstar while giving him a built-in excuse that sets up a profitable fourth fight with Poirier.

At the very least, McGregor now has two big fights on the horizon when he can get back into action. Aside from the fourth fight with Poirier, he also has a third fight with Nate Diaz that is sure to generate a huge pay-per-view number. Not to mention, the length of time McGregor is gone will generate buzz for his return.

Perhaps most importantly, McGregor can save his reputation by claiming that Poirier only won because McGregor was injured. And that’s the narrative that most of his fans will carry despite the reality that Poirier dominated the first round and was probably heading towards a finish unless McGregor made a drastic change in his approach.

From the first round it was clear that McGregor hadn’t changed much outside when trying to shoot some leg kicks. None of them fazed Poirier, who fired a kick to the leg that froze McGregor in his tracks and left him on his feet as the Louisiana fighter planted a right hand on the former two-division champion’s kisser.

Once the fight hit the canvas, McGregor found himself in a world of trouble. After a failed guillotine attempt, Poirier slammed his elbows and fists into McGregor’s face. McGregor didn’t offer much resistance as he ate elbow after elbow while Poirier remained in a dominant position. It was the position that McGregor fans feared the most, while Poirier was perfectly comfortable hitting the Irishman from inside his guard.

And then the injury happened in the last seconds of the round when the fighters got back on their feet.

As McGregor sat on the mat yelling at Poirier, the potential amount of pay-per-view purchases for a fourth fight began to increase. Unconditional McGregor fans began to believe everything Mystic Mac said.

“I was taking off his bleeding head and kicking his bleeding leg, the usual shit to close this distance,” McGregor said angrily. “This isn’t over. If I have to take this outside with him, I’ll go out. I don’t give a damn.”

His fans probably sided with him and thought he would do what he did in the Chad Mendes fight years ago and take advantage of a tired Poirier. The only thing was that Poirier was nowhere near tired and dominated almost every aspect of the fight.

Fortunately for McGregor, the thing that will be remembered most in the third fight is the grotesquely broken leg that prevented him from continuing. As we all know, anything can happen in MMA and McGregor can certainly suggest that he was warming up before the injury. Everything Poirier did before the injury will be ignored by McGregor’s most die-hard fans.

Honestly, the injury saved McGregor from embarrassment and gave him another big money fight. It also offers the opportunity not only to heal your leg, but also your pride. Regardless of what he says, he knows he was losing that fight and may have been rescued through injury.

The silver lining is the fact that McGregor goes to work on his own schedule before returning to action, allowing him to return to the lab and get back to his craft. It will also allow the opportunity for reinvention, if McGregor chooses to do so. The rapid turnaround after losing to Poirier in January didn’t really allow McGregor to work on the things necessary to perform better in the trilogy.

Now? You have nothing but time.

And, as they say, the absence makes the heart grow warmer and McGregor’s return to action will be another massive event. Whether it’s against Poirier, Diaz, or another fighter, there’s another great payday and it doesn’t lose much of a shine to the casual fan who increases their pay-per-view sales. There will continue to be a bit of mystique surrounding McGregor and curiosity will be piqued regarding the changes the Irishman will make to his approach to the fight.

Consider this: At the time of writing, Poirier’s post-fight interview has 1.3 million views on YouTube. But McGregor’s post-fight interview has already surpassed 3 million views.

The injury saved McGregor from himself. This was not the best version of McGregor that we have seen. From the trash talk to the fight itself, he often felt like a man who was trying to believe his own hype again. Something felt wrong as McGregor’s uproar of insults increased in intensity and bad taste. Was he trying to find motivation? Was his ego so bruised that he worried he didn’t have it anymore? Who knows? You will have more than enough time to figure it out, as it will be out of the spotlight as the sport progresses.

When you’re ready to return, rest assured that everything will be in place for McGregor to reclaim his throne as the biggest star in combat sports. There has never been anything like him and there is currently no other fighter who can take his place. The person is bigger than the fighter and in some strange way this injury only adds to his legend. At the very least, it expands your ability to remain a mainstream star. At worst, it prolongs the inevitable fall from grace that came very close to occurring against Poirier.

For some, the game eventually passes them by. But for McGregor, the game will always salivate for his return.


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