So, Conor beat Mendes in the main-event of UFC 189. Knocked him out in two, just like he said he would. I must be here to eat crow, right?
Did he impress me? I’d be lying if I didn’t say he did, at least a little. Showed some composure for sure. Handled a bit of adversity. Took a minor beating early and waited Mendes out. Did he prove me wrong, though? Do I think he’s any less of a fraud than I did a few days ago? Eh. Maybe.
Oh, but first…what was the point of what I wrote last week? I ask because a lot of people seem to have misconstrued my first post and gotten caught up in a small, less significant part of the message.
Was I calling Conor McGregor a fraud because he can’t fight at the level he’s being promoted at, or was I calling him a fraud because his persona, his character, his public imagine is hopelessly contrived?
The answer is both. But mostly the latter.
Truth is, I got countless trolling texts, IM’s and Facebook shouts last night, as if I had a personal stake in the outcome beyond an opinion and a feeling I had. Yes, I did I say McGregor wouldn’t be able to handle Mendes’ wrestling. For awhile there I was right. Then, Mendes got unjustly brave (and/or tired) and got put to sleep.
All praises go to the victor.
How much did we really learn about him, though? The questions leading into this fight were thus:
a) can he win at the highest level, against a top 3 guy?
b) how will he fare against a top wrestler after being not so subtly kept away from them?
Well, we learned he can take a punch. And an elbow, such as it was. We also learned he can be taken down rather easily. We learned, or rather had reaffirmed, the idea that Conor can stand and mix with pretty much anyone. He’s got the goods in that department, no doubt. That was about it, though.
Still unanswered are the questions regarding what he’ll do against a top flight wrestler who had a full camp, or who is in shape to go the distance. Call it what you want, but it’s not an excuse so much as it’s just a reality of what happened. Mendes wasn’t at his best. Now, for me to say that’s why Conor won would be as silly as saying Mendes was guaranteed a victory if he had been 100%, but to ignore the mitigators altogether is to simply be ignoring reality to suit your preffered version of the truth, whatever that might be. Almost always, somewhere in between the two opposing perspectives lies the truth. This is one of them times for sure.
I know, I know. Get to the good part and shit. Do I still think McGregor is a fraud? That’s a two part question.
On the fighter part, the answer is “less than I did 24 hours ago.” I’d be blind and/or in denial to argue otherwise. I mean, regardless of the circumstances leading into this fight, the guy called his shot, and against a fighter with a real resume. This wasn’t Siver or Poirier, it was Chad Mendes, the guy who had, in 19 fights, never lost to anyone not named Jose Aldo.
Whatever can be said about Conor’s persona or character, it can’t be said that he fought without hear at UFC 189t. Plenty of fighters, in fact plenty of the fighters I have compared him to (Adrien Broner, David Haye come to mind) in the past have packed it in mentally when faced with similar challenges. Conor not only got out of Mendes’ warm embrace, he did so while under the type of pressure that most modern fighters will never have to endure.
Nevermind the 160 or so pounds of pharmacy grade wrestler strapped to him, this was a guy carrying 200 or so tons of jingoistic, patrotic fervor on his back. A dude whose mouth wrote checks all over town in the lead-up to this fight, first in regard to Aldo, then to Mendes. These weren’t your ordinary stakes. This was off-the-map stuff. Coming though under that kind of pressure, honestly, is the most impressive thing he’s done to this point, and the single most important act in terms of discrediting my original argument. Hardly a fraud-like performance.
Perhaps that’s why we got a glimpse of what I can only assume was someone a lot closer to Conor McGregor: actual human being than the usual Ric Flair meets Muhammad Ali charicature we get when the lights are on. Then again, maybe this aw shucks, humble conqueror routine we got is every bit as calculated as the rest of it?
Now see that? I mean shit, isn’t the fact that we can’t really tell just further proof of his genius, such as it is?
And that leads to the second part of my answer. Yep, I still think he’s a phony bastard in terms of the presentation. Still playing big shot villain guy. Whether or not that type of shit matters to you is a question of preference. I find it silly, slighty insulting and rather lowest-common-denomenator, but that’s just how it registers for me. Phony doesn’t just don’t cut it. I don’t need to be sold anything other than what’s being offered in the cage, ring, etc. Rest of it is for show. You can keep that stuff. Iwe already saw Ali do it to death, and nobody is topping that.
Yeah, I have already been engaged by many people who are convinced that I’m either full of shit or just wrong. That his persona is in fact geniune. That his belief in himself is as real as it gets. That his arrogance is not the overcompensation of he who protesteth too much, but the unwavering confidence of a man who is just that sure he is what he says he is. And time and again I will tell people, based on my own experiences, that beneath the bravado and the dancing bear routine is a scared-to-death dude who is trying to talk himself into being what he, and the masses, want him to be. For riches, and for reckoning. People want that, man. A human manifestation of these superhero movies that dominate Hollywood now. People don’t want humble and real. They want the fantasy.
And that, regardless of my own personal feelings on the matter, is Conor McGregor’s neatest trick. That’s fact. For all I’ve said here, I don’t know the answer to the question of whether he is 100% sincere or a wholesale fabrication. All I have is guesses, educated though they may be.
You know who has the answer? The only person who truly knows? It’s McGregor himself.
And believe me, he’s better off keeping it a secret for as long as possible.