Conor McGregor is the brightest star that the UFC has ever had. Having announced himself to MMA’s global fanbase in 2013 with a knockout victory over Marcus Brimage, the Irishman’s stock has skyrocketed.

A native of Dublin, “The Notorious” changed the face of the world’s premier MMA promotion, and it has never been the same. Having fought on four of the five highest-grossing pay-per-view events in UFC history, there is no doubt that McGregor is the main attraction in the theme park.

Evidently, McGregor’s career has become a bit of a sideshow in recent times. Having shocked the world with a record-breaking 13-second dismantling of the featherweight champion Jose Aldo – a man that had not been beaten in 10 years – McGregor became one of the most recognizable faces in sports.

Of course, behind the Crumlin fighter’s ascent was a charisma, wit, and natural tact for self-promotion that had never before been seen in MMA.

Yes, we had Chael Sonnen, who’s hilarious trash talk and character set a precedent in the sport. Other fighters like Quinton Jackson had a way with words, too. However, McGregor was something completely different indeed.

At the cost of sounding banal, McGregor just had that x-factor that fans of all nationalities, colors, and creeds got behind. His two fights with Nate Diaz were epic contests that gripped fans across the globe. McGregor then became the first fighter in the promotion’s history to hold two titles in separate weight classes, consecutively.

Then, he took a ‘sabbatical’ from the promotion to partake in a glorified exhibition with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. Following this fight, McGregor and his estimated $100 million payout for that fight departed for Ireland.

From here, things simply went downhill. Reports of alleged assaults in his homeland were mixed with viral videos of the star seemingly partying a little too hard. It seemed McGregor was done with fighting.

“Fighting" Khabib vs. McGregor: From Bus to Bust

In April 2018, “The Notorious” was involved in the smashing up of a bus following a UFC 223 press conference in Brooklyn, New York.

The two-weight world champion was charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief by the NYPD. Although lucky to escape with minimal punishment, many in the MMA community had questions.

For the most part, these questions surrounded why McGregor resorted to such idiocy and, well, if he was doing alright. After all, what the hell did that bus to him?

Naturally, the story came out in the end, and it involved McGregor’s rival Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Russian, who was set to be crowned lightweight champion of the world if he beat Al Iaquinta, was effectively taking the Dubliner’s title.

Well, that depends on how you look at things. McGregor, despite being a UFC champion in two separate weight classes for the best part of 2 and a half years, never defended either title. Not once.  Seriously.

Anyway, the footage of McGregor throwing a trolley through the window of the bus – which would be unbelievably be used to promote the UFC 229 fight between Khabib and McGregor – sent shockwaves through the sport.

Less than six months later, and McGregor was making his comeback against Khabib.

The Shame of UFC 229

If the big talking point ahead of McGregor’s comeback was the bus incident, his performance at the first pre-fight press conference would soon consign that to history.

McGregor appeared more concerned with promoting his “Proper 12” brand of whiskey and insulting everyone from Nurmagomedov’s father, manager, team, and cat than he was in answering valid questions pertaining to the bout.

Something was clearly off with the Irishman who once had a razor-sharp wit and an ability to get inside his opponents’ heads. Even with his derogatory remarks and blatant disregard for sportsmanship, McGregor was… flat.

He seemed to be all over the place. He was drinking whiskey throughout the conference, which was unique in the sense that the public was not permitted to attend it.  Yes, at times McGregor was hilarious, although some of what he said was close to the bone.

Talk of terrorism, gruesome descriptions of what he would do to Khabib, and plenty of colloquialisms that only fellow-Dubliners would have any chance of decyphering ensued.  Even though it was far from McGregor’s greatest performance in front of the cameras, it seemingly did the trick.

When the numbers for UFC 229 were released, there is no doubt that the UFC would not have regretted giving the brash Irishman the platform to say whatever popped into his head at any given moment.

“Fighting" McGregor is Mauled by Khabib

Let’s not beat around the bush. It was a mauling, and nothing less.

The Dagestani champion made McGregor look like an average fighter at UFC 229, completely dealing with the little that “The Notorious” had to offer. From the first round to the end of the bout, McGregor was outclassed, outthought, and outmaneuvered.

The new champ had completely walked through the former titlist, much to the surprise of the UFC golden boy’s legion of fans.

The most telling part of the fight was when Khabib, who many believe has nothing more than mediocre striking, dropped McGregor with a right hand quite unlike any he had previously eaten.

In the fourth round, “The Eagle” cranked the neck of McGregor, who did not hesitate to tap at the first sign of losing consciousness. Not that tapping is a bad thing.

We have seen some of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time do the same. The type of injuries that can be sustained by allowing yourself to be squeezed, choked, or cranked to the point of losing consciousness can end careers.

Nevertheless, being outspoken, cocky, and downright insulting to those around you has the habit of coming back to bite you in the butt should your words not match your abilities inside the cage on the night.

On October 7, 2018, McGregor looked tired, jaded, and completely outclassed. So, what happened?

“Fighting" A Loss of Heart?

McGregor talked a big game in the run-up to the bout and seemed to look in shape, at least.

However, you cannot deny the fact that he had not fought inside the Octagon since his defeat over Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight title in November 2016.

Not to take anything from the excellent Nurmagomedov, but McGregor just looked as though he had returned from an all-inclusive package holiday to Cuba. His cardio, which has never been at the standard one would expect from an elite fighter, was proven to be even worse.

Was his heart in it? Did he care? Was he more concerned with it being ‘only business,’ as he told Nurmagomedov? Does legacy matter as this point, considering he went from welfare to over $100 million in the bank?

I’m not sure that it does.

Yes, he has a contract with the UFC to honor – one that could or could not include a stake in the company for their prized asset – but is still hungry?

It is hard for any fighter to go from nothing to everything. To be a prospect to the single most influential star that has ever fought in the UFC – and I’m mentioning his influence on the sport itself but the promotional side of things.

McGregor has more fans on social media than arguably the next top 5 ‘stars’ combined. He is a global brand. The question is, has he lost the will to fight?

“Fighting" Conor McGregor’s Next Fight

First things first, McGregor needs to fight the desire to rake in more cash and ask himself if his heart is still in it.

If he hopes to get inside the Octagon against top-level competition and not get embarrassed, he needs to be in much better shape than he was against Nurmagomedov.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Dagestani is one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. He might not have the resume to prove it just yet, but he could walk through anyone in the division on his night.

Al Iaquinta, a fighter ranked several places below McGregor, managed to take Khabib to the cards. You have the feeling that if the relationship between the Irishman and Nurmagomedov wasn’t so sour, he wouldn’t have toyed with him so much and dragged the fight out as long.

Once again, that is matter of opinion. The sentiment still stands, however – if McGregor wants to return to the cage, he has to get himself physically and mentally prepared.

He looked about as sharp as a balloon in his last fight. He had no engine, no spark, no mental sharpness. He was flat footed and looked as though his days of partying hard might have caught up with him.

“Fighting" A Rematch with Khabib?

Erm, probably not. How can the UFC justify putting McGregor back in against a fighter that looked lightyears ahead of him in their one and only encounter?

If both men somehow managed to work their way to a rematch, the result would not be much different. Even the greatest optimist in the McGregor camp surely recognizes that.

I think this a fight that can be completely ruled out, unless McGregor tears through some of the best talent in the promotion and undergoes a radical rebirth, that is. I don’t believe there is much chance of that happening, however.

McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3?

A trilogy fight with Diaz makes huge sense. It seems almost guaranteed that these two will end up back inside the cage at some point. Will the Stockton native be the next man to earn himself a place in the most lucrative matchup in MMA, however? No. That won’t happen.

McGregor vs. Diaz III will happen but it’s more of an insurance policy for McGregor and the promotion. In other words, when they have exhausted all other possibilities and the Dubliner is set to retire, that fight will be his swansong. After all, it makes sense.

Diaz will go down in the annals of UFC history as McGregor’s greatest rival, and likewise for McGregor. The rivalry itself is also the most lucrative in the history of the sport, occupying two of the top three pay-per-view records on the UFC’s all-time list.

As a result of both clashes between the pair, McGregor and Diaz made tens of millions o dollars on account of pay-per-view sales alone.

Not bad for a guy that was on welfare before joining the promotion, and another guy that was making $20,000 to show and $20,000 to win prior to his “red panty night” moment at UFC 196.

This fight will happen, but it will depend on how McGregor fares in his next fight. If he loses, expect McGregor Diaz III to be announced not long after. If he wins, however, he might back himself for another shot at a title.

Perhaps, the new 165-pound strap that is rumored to be on the brink of being introduced to the promotion…

“Fighting" McGregor vs. Cerrone?

Now, this is a fight that would rock! Is there a cooler guy in the history of MMA than “Cowboy” Cerrone? I don’t think so.

The Denver, Colorado-based lightweight is just so badass that he makes everyone around him look painfully dull.

Whether he is knocking Buds back at NASCAR, knocking more Buds back on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, or breaking his record for knocking Buds back inside the Octagon in between rounds (OK, I made that one up, he is a credit to MMA.

This matchup definitely appeals to die-hard fans of the promotion, given Cerrone’s excellent standup game. McGregor is most effective on the feet, too, so a clash between the Muay Thai-heavy veteran and the MMA boxing of McGregor sounds right up my street.

UFC President Dana White ‘isn’t against the idea,’ which means that this could be a fun, exciting fight that is also kind of winnable for McGregor.

If he lost to Cowboy, his career as an elite fighter – one that he is hanging on to with his fingernails – would be over. That is not up for debate. However, a win for Cowboy could push him closer to a second UFC lightweight title shot, having lost his first to Rafael dos Anjos in 2015.

You know, the more I think about it, the more inclined I am to say that this will be McGregor’s next bout. If, and it is a big if, he returns to the Octagon.

“Fighting" Final Thoughts

So there you have it, folks.  My prediction for 2019 is that Conor McGregor will meet Donald Cerrone in a stand-up war sometime this year.

Can you remember the famous “red panty night” comments made at a press conference ahead of UFC 197? Well, McGregor had aimed these now legendary words at Rafael dos Anjos following an initial exchange with Cowboy.

Needless to say, there is history between both men. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will enjoy a few drinks together after what will surely be one of the most exciting fights in recent memory.

The question is, will it be Bud or Proper 12 they order for their first drink after the bout?

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