Sunday 25 June 2017

Comment: For those revelling in Conor McGregor's defeat, he'll be around for a while yet

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

Tom Rooney

Well, the day of reckoning finally came. That is, the satisfying sight of Conor McGregor being served that hot, steaming dish of humility so many had hoped and prayed would to be on the menu for a man whose obnoxious bombast had turned their stomach countless times.

Of course, it will hardly offend their sensibilities that the blood soaked chef in question, Nate Diaz, has rarely, if ever, uttered a sentence that hasn’t been littered with expletives.

McGregor, in front of a packed MGM Grand Garden Arena and the watching world, got what was coming to him, proving beyond reasonable doubt that feigning humility and speaking exclusively in clichés is the only right and proper mode of decorum for elite athletes.

However, before lighting that particular effigy, it’s worth remembering that he’ll have to be further suffered for a while yet.

Yes, he was thoroughly outclassed by Diaz, and yes, his shortcomings as a fighter were ruthlessly exposed on the grandest stage in combat sports, but he’s still the featherweight champion of the world and the most lucrative draw in all of mixed martial arts.

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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

Right up until 3 30 of the second round as McGregor tapped to Diaz’s ruthlessly applied rear-naked choke, the swirl of discourse fanning the speculation of what he might do next remained in a perpetual, dizzying motion.

‘If he beats this guy, will he fight for the welterweight title or the lightweight title, or both, at the same time?’

Here’s the first thing that needs clearing up right away; the showdown with Diaz was a welterweight bout in name only. Had the American even a week’s more preparation it would have almost surely been contested at lightweight.

Giving McGregor an immediate crack at Robbie Lawler (welterweight champion) for beating a last ditch replacement who, by the way, has a 2-2 record in that division, would have been audacious and unjustifiable, even within the UFC’s  often laughably distorted meritocracy.

So, the Dubliner could not lose something that was never credibly his in the first place. What he did lose, for the foreseeable future anyway, was his shot at Rafael Dos Anjos and the opportunity to become the first ever to concurrently hold two titles.

Although it’s a system not to be taken too seriously at the best of times, the UFC rakings place Diaz as the number five lightweight in the world, and his antics last night have sent McGregor back to the featherweight division, with plenty of thinking to do but viable options before him.

As such, if the Crumlin native still harbours that dream of unprecedented domination, he simply must settle all accounts at 145 lbs. More shuddering than any opponent laying in wait there is the prospect of at least one more enervating weight cut, the result  of which renders McGregor near unrecognisable.

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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

The two names that immediately come to mind are, indeed, Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo, the man concussively exposed of in just 13 seconds last December. Edgar has been petitioning for a crack at McGregor for over a year now and has well and truly earned a title shot.

Aldo’s five year tenure as the first and only featherweight kingpin could see him leapfrog the American - either contest will be eminently promotable.

The rematch with Aldo sells itself, even more so now that McGregor’s veneer of invincibility has evaporated and that the Brazilian was as swift as anyone to take to social media and revel in Diaz’s great feat of iconoclasm.

While Edgar, being the wrestler and grappler that he is, possesses the sort of skillset commonly believed to be the perfect foil for McGregor. That train of thought seems increasingly sound following recent developments. Injuries notwithstanding, McGregor's first title defence, whoever the opponent may be, will likely be at UFC 200 on July 9.

One thing is for sure, the Notorious must decisively dispatch of both men if he is to retain any footing for later tilts at other divisions. Whatever the future holds for McGregor, an immediate retreat to obscurity is by no means in the offing, so enjoy the silence for now.

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