The MMA gods may favour a fighter on the odd occasion, but ultimately, they have no love for those who offer blood sacrifices before them. One moment you could be king of the world with every bit of momentum on your side; and the next, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a well-timed hook which sends the lights out – like Greg Hardy – on your ass while an unrelenting gloved fists rains upon you – like Stephen Thompson – and in the case of Conor McGregor during his trilogy rematch against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264, folding into yourself with a broken leg.
The assertion held by anyone with a brain is that Mystic Mac’s era of actually being a mixed martial artist has arrived to its natural conclusion. Setting aside the fact he’s lost three out of his last four matches, McGregor has cashed in a hefty payday outside of the cage with the help of an alluring mistress known as boxing (completely understandable, given the dollar figure was lightyears above the UFC’s weight class); lobbied his personal brand into super stardom, as well as turning it into some healthy passive income; and after selling his Proper No. 12 whiskey label to Proximo Spirits, in the financial sense, McGregor is effectively set for life.
Taking a beating in public for a living would have presumably taken a backseat in the father of two’s priority list, and the most telling indication of this was when the event’s preamble dedicated an entire segment to illustrating his top status as Forbes’ highest-paid athlete, as opposed to analysing his past/current prowess. Taking a beating in public also couldn’t possibly offer the same net benefit as it once did when he was a fresh-faced and wild-eyed scrapper from Dublin, relying on welfare to train from sun up to sundown. Though if you were once a world-beater of McGregor’s calibre, legacy (and pride) will always come into play.
This was the make-or-break moment. We were about to find out whether McGregor had managed to reignite the double division championship-winning mentality in his furnace which earned him a chapter in combat sports history, or if our worst suspicions could finally be confirmed: that his best days are well and truly behind him.
It’s a crying shame UFC 264 ended its co-main event the way it did. Granted, while none of us expected it to go the five-round distance, there will forever be an asterisk next to Dustin Poirier’s second consecutive victory against Conor McGregor. Can the W be entirely attributed to Poirier? Was it just a sign that victory – and age – had defeated his opponent? For the time being, nothing is definite on this front. Yet. For I have no doubt there will be one last showdown after this, regardless of the views that McGregor has gone from Proper 12 to Proper Done (you can’t argue with PPV revenue).
Still, on some level, this was a rather fitting “exit” for the Irishman: unable to accept the outcome, belligerently cursing out everyone from his opponent to his opponent’s wife, wilfully ignorant to the fact that the medical stoppage was a divine act of mercy. Because let’s be real here… during the minutes the preceded his leg bone shattering, McGregor was getting sparked the fuck up from every conceivable angle. The grand irony of it all is that leg kicks were also his very undoing the last time he faced the man living up to his nickname, The Diamond.
UFC 264, however, doesn’t belong to Dustin Poirier. Nor does it belong to the likes of Gilbert Burns, Australia’s own shoey-loving Tai Tuvasa, or Irene Aldana, either. The night, in my opinion, belongs to the electric Sugar Sean O’Malley and UFC debutante Kris Moutinho. Signing the dotted line just 11 days before it went down, the latter entered the Octagon underprepared – but not without the requisite grit and gumption.
The far more experienced O’Malley dismantled young Moutinho across all three rounds, landing an almost unprecedented 80% of significant strikes. It was nothing short of poetry in motion. Surgical, bloody poetry. That was until referee Herb Dean stepped in for one his patented blue-balling stoppages. In an ideal world, fans would have been treated to the last 30 seconds. And odds are, Moutinho’s iron chin could have weathered the storm.
Here’s to the coming weeks of fight weekend hangover after another positively stacked card.