Friday 20 October 2017

Cathal Pendred: Anything can happen in MMA and nobody is safe - even Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor reacts following his loss against Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Conor McGregor reacts following his loss against Nate Diaz during UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Conor McGregor suffered his first defeat in the UFC after being choked out by Nate Diaz

Cathal Pendred

One of the reasons I first started watching and then competing in MMA is that, in a flash, anything can happen. The unpredictability of the sport and the realisation that anybody can be defeated in the blink of an eye is what makes it so compelling.

I fully expected Conor to beat Nate Diaz last night but, like so many other people, I was blown away by what unfolded.

Firstly, and I think this point is being lost amid all the fallout of Conor losing, Diaz and his team did a fantastic job and they deserve all the credit they get.

As we saw when Rafael Dos Anjos got injured, there aren’t too many fighters out there willing to face 'The Notorious' on such short notice and Nate should to be commended for that.

In this sport more than maybe any other, there is fickleness and a tendency to celebrate when others lose that never ceases to amaze me.

Having said that, after seeing how the fans and media turned on Ronda Rousey after she lost to Holly Holm, I’m in no way surprised by the backlash Conor is receiving at the moment. It’s a strange characteristic in certain people that they revel in the adversity of others.

6 March 2016; Nate Diaz celebrates submitting Conor McGregor via rear naked choke in their welterweight bout. UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz. MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV, USA. Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas / SPORTSFILE
6 March 2016; Nate Diaz celebrates submitting Conor McGregor via rear naked choke in their welterweight bout. UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz. MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV, USA. Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas / SPORTSFILE

Still, I couldn’t be prouder of the humility he has shown in what I know from personal experience is devastating blow to take.

He had so much respect for Nate and his performance and, in the long run, I think Conor will have earned an even greater support for how he’s conducted himself.

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UFC star Cathal Pendred

Unlike most fighters, Conor has had to go through this on the biggest stage in the entire sport, which I’m sure will only heighten the disappointment. But he didn’t disappear into a shell, and went to the post fight press conference, spoke very well and kept his head held high.

It’s odd because this fight throws up far more questions than it answered. The question I’m asking myself is whether or it was Conor’s concession of weight or reach that was telling.

Perhaps it’s wasn’t actually the weight of a bigger guy like Diaz, and having to hit him harder, but having to get on the inside to land shots. Usually Conor has the superior size and reach, certainly at featherweight, but it’s something Nate has as well.

Having sparred countless times with Conor, I know for a fact that he has the power to put down a light or welterweight. Conor hits harder than any guy I’ve ever trained with, and that transcends all weight classes.

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6 March 2016; Conor McGregor, right, in action against Nate Diaz during their welterweight bout. UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz. MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV, USA. Picture credit: Mark J. Rebilas / SPORTSFILE

It was a calculated risk to make the jump in weight and maybe he just needs to make a couple of adjustments. He was looking to connect with that uppercut and it just seemed an inch or two off but Nate is six foot tall and, in MMA, the smallest margins often prove decisive.

Conor could well have exhausted himself a little by dint of needing to throw as many punches as he did because, more often than not, it only takes one or two cracks of his left hand to end a fight.

This, too, might have frustrated him. And, when Diaz found those big straight lefts, there could have been a combination of fatigue, frustration and even a little panic that caused Conor to shoot for the takedown which ultimately led to the submission.

I still believe Conor can and will dominate the lightweight division. For the vast majority of the fight he was picking Diaz apart, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong but, if anyone can, it’s Conor. He has the most analytical mind for the mechanics of a fight that I’ve ever encountered.

I was fighting on the same card as him in Cork the last time he lost a fight, against Joseph Duffy. To begin with I wasn't sure how he'd handle it, just because he's such a confident guy, but  it completely focused his mind and he was back in the gym the following week and soon morphed into the animal that turned this sport on its head. 

Conor actively seeks out the biggest challenges in everything he does and I expect him to respond to this blip - because that’s all it is - as a champion

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