On January 18th Irish MMA star Conor McGregor returns against Donald Cerrone in a 170lb bout at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, for UFC 246.
Its his first fight since the utter debacle that ensued in and out of the octagon after his 155lb title fight against current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, in October 2018, where he was unable to withstand the barrage unleashed by his opponent and tapped out in the fourth round. Khabib hadn't exacted enough punishment as he felt Conor and his team deserved so carried on the fight by vaulting the cage into McGregors cornermen, which then spread the violence out into the crowd. Irish fans were unprepared as gangs of Muslims hunted them down on the Las Vegas strip, setting upon them mercilessly, and then filming their splayed out victims to commemorate the total national humiliation inflicted on us.
The Irish newspapers naturally sensed an opportunity to complete the destruction of a person they never accepted and thus they could barely conceal their glee at the loss, according to one porcine contributor:
"...He's no elite sportsman and now he has got his comeuppance. He was humiliated..."
“...sad McGregor facing the grim reality of a has been...”
Up to this point, Conor had threatened to transcend the sport of MMA, and as being Irish became culturally cool again on the global stage I thought he might become an avatar of implicit Irish identity. Here was something vivid and vital for people to coalesce around, part of it is a unifying myth of the fighting Irish, manifest with such stark ferocity by Conor as to break barriers between individuals down. It didn’t matter how true it all was, we had these moments which each other, now. It was not to be.
In hindsight there were some ‘red flags’ before the fight that would indicate a general malaise in his camp, that has been subsequently confirmed as present by Conor himself when he admitted he was not as committed to his training regimen as he had been for previous bouts. The pre-229 press conferences were absent psychological onslaught he inflicts on his opponents, often with real wit and charm. He was drinking and promoting his (then) new whiskey brand, and resorted to cringe inducing attacks on a tactically quiet Khabib. Amongst some of the insults, Conor tried to create some difficulty in the Russian and Dagestani identities Khabib straddles, and called Khabib's father a coward for (correctly) not seeking to violently address historic animosities when meeting Russian/Dagestani/Chechen heads of State.
For all his relative silence and (according to Conor) language capabilities during the presser, Khabib still had the best line when he queried why if Ireland is a fighting nation, he is always speaking in English when Ireland has its own language! It was a brutal takedown that portended the fight. Conor resorted to mocking Khabibs pronunciation in the said English language, just one of the (at least) five languages he is said to speak. It was a cringe inducing bully dynamic that has persisted after the fight as Conor taunts him on twitter for an undeserved rematch and Khabib replies simply “[Redacted]. You are a [Redacted]”.
Although there have been even fewer opportunities for the press to meet and examine Conor before this bout than there was for UFC 229 (which itself had Conor refusing to do as many media requests as normally required), the few bits of information that has been revealed give cause for alarm. His head coach John Kavaunagh has indicated that the camp for Cerrone was designed/dictated entirely by Conor himself since according to Kavaunagh, and I paraphrase ‘he [Conor] knows more about fighting than all of us put together’. A fighter designing his routine and being successful has not been done before, which doesn’t preclude this being another ‘first’ for Conor, but it seems improbable, it smacks more of ego. A return to the regimen that yielded such historic results along with performances of a timeless beauty would of seemed more desirable.
But this preview will differ from the structure of ones done for his previous fights. I will not be aggregating the key factors to indicate who the victor is likely to be, it doesn’t matter what the outcome is. Whoever the winner may be, it feels the Irish have lost already.