The UFC wagon rolls on and presents an intriguing card including McGregor vs Poirier III, a fight that will determine the future of its biggest star and most lucrative asset.
Fighters are obsessed with winning. It is the only way to climb to the top of the game. Losses in the ring sting worse than losses in other sport contests. There is no one else to blame, maybe a coach who gave some bad advice, but the thrill of fighting is its one-on-one nature. Following a loss, most fighters are desperate to run the contest, exact their revenge and rejoin the winners club. Big stars like Conor McGregor are afforded this luxury, while lesser names just suffer a hit to their reputation. The losers are shuffled down the ratings and paired with other losers.
McGregor vs Poirier III is an interesting affair. The ledger stands at one apiece with both results having come via knockout. It makes sense for a third and deciding fixture. Following his capitulation in the second fight, we made the observation that McGregor might have lost his edge. He is now a family man with hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank and appears to have mellowed in recent times. While this progression is advantageous in life outside of the ring, it can prove a fighter’s undoing. A comfortable fighter loses the hunger that compels him to run hundreds of miles and train for thousands of hours. He wakes in silk sheets and the desire to pound the pavement is diminished.
The outcome of the deciding fight will be determined solely by McGregor’s headspace, specifically, his levels of motivation and commitment. Poirier is a known commodity. He’s game and bold. He can wear a punch. He fights on the front foot and pressures his opponent. On paper McGregor is the superior athlete, but the Irishman’s game contains several potential weaknesses. As a power puncher McGregor is prone to running short of gas as a fight progresses. He also panics when his best punches land and the other guy keeps coming. And he gives up in the face of adversity. His talents are rich, but shallow, and he has been found wanting on multiple occasions.
A loss for the Irishman would almost certainly end his illustrious career. He blazed a path that will never be followed. He sold out arenas and was responsible for millions of pay-per-view purchases. But getting continually clubbed in the head makes no sense at this point in his life. A McGregor victory will see him fight for the title versus Charles Olivera, and that contest would prove the perfect swansong.
So which McGregor will show up on July 10, the hungry and ruthless killer or the genial family man? Who knows? His coaching team will have arrived at a more solid game plan for McGregor vs Poirier III, but if the mindset is askew then he will certainly suffer another defeat. Many of the early McGregor victories resulted from the volume of mental warfare he threw at his opponents during the lead up. He infuriated Jose Aldo for months and took advantage of early recklessness to record a 13 second knockout. But McGregor the family man no longer plays those games, and his mystique has now faded. He’s just another bouncy lefthander with knockout power, and those are not in short supply.
McGregor may lift himself for the occasion and tap the raw energy that propelled a failed apprentice plumber from freezing Dublin building sites to international stardom. Or he might go quietly into the night, nurse his bruises, and realise that fighting is a young man’s game and the time has come to enjoy the spoils of his labor. The fight will play out between McGregor’s ears, and if his weaknesses are apparent, Poirier will simply take him apart. If Conor is to prevail he will need to land some early decisive blows. He will be vulnerable should the fight see later rounds, so the first minutes will be crucial.
The official AMG prediction is a McGregor loss followed by octagon tears.
Jackson Byrne – Combat Sports Editor