Sunday 25 September 2016

'He's an injured gazelle, hoping he gets spared ... he'll be eaten alive'

Joe Callaghan

Published 05/03/2016 | 02:30

Conor McGregor in 2016
Conor McGregor in 2016

And for his next act? Time and again, Conor McGregor has railed against the notion that any part of his rumbling, all-conquering roadshow is anything but real.

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"This is me being me," the oft-heard refrain throughout 2015 as his ultra-aggressive takeover of mixed martial arts came to pass.

As with a lot of things relating to the Notorious one, however, the assertion might be viewed as largely true. . . not wholly.

Part of the mass appeal of McGregor is the intrigue, the illusion. In this town of all towns, intrigue and illusion sell just as well as reality. The foremost fighter in the UFC has long since had that part very much figured out.

When McGregor and Nate Diaz come together in the eight-sided centre of the Grand Garden Arena at UFC 196 in Las Vegas tonight, the illusion will fade as reality dawns.

Harder

In spite of all of his fighting words in the past seven days, it's likely to dawn faster and harder on Diaz.

The Californian is three years older than McGregor but has fought three times as many UFC bouts as his opponent.

Experience can count for plenty in the sport of combat and Diaz has a whole lot more than just tenure in the tank: his submission skills, striking and defence are all impressive.

Yet it's hard to escape the feeling that he's outgunned. On just 11 days' notice, he might also prove to be undercooked.

"I'm going to toy with the young boy, I'm going to play with him," McGregor has promised.

"He's very, very predictable. I think the speed. . . people gave Jose (Aldo, his most recent opponent) the speed advantage but that was a mistake. Nate's heavy on his right foot but now he's like an injured gazelle.

"You're like a gazelle, bunched up together and hoping you get spared. Your little gazelle friends are going to look through the cage (at you) getting eaten alive and they're going to say 'we're never going to cross this river again'."

The fight is McGregor's first professional outing at welterweight. Diaz has been at the 170lb division before.

Yet all week it's been the Dubliner who looks more comfortable in his bigger body. The crippling effects of the weight cuts at featherweight (145lb) are a thing of the past.

McGregor's superior speed and striking - and that left fist most of all - will be unaffected by the move up the rungs.

"Skill-wise I made a big, big jump from the (Chad) Mendes fight to Aldo. But I didn't get to show a lot of that because the fight was over so quick," said McGregor of his last outing, all 13 seconds of it.

"So part of me does want to stretch (this fight) out. I hope Nate can last. . . but I can't hold my breath."

McGregor's next act? It's likely to be a whole lot similar to the previous ones.

AND for his next act? Time and again, Conor McGregor has railed against the notion that any part of his rumbling, all-conquering roadshow is anything but real.

"This is me being me," the oft-heard refrain throughout 2015 as his ultra-aggressive takeover of mixed martial arts came to pass.

As with a lot of things relating to the Notorious one, however, the assertion might be viewed as largely true. . . not wholly.

Part of the mass appeal of McGregor is the intrigue, the illusion. In this town of all towns, intrigue and illusion sell just as well as reality. The foremost fighter in the UFC has long since had that part very much figured out.

When McGregor and Nate Diaz come together in the eight-sided centre of the Grand Garden Arena at UFC 196 in Las Vegas tonight, the illusion will fade as reality dawns.

Irish Independent

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