Conor McGregor: Changing MMA Again

MMA megastar, Conor McGregor, is a polarizing force in the mixed martial arts community. Weather it be his toeing-the-line trash talk to bolster his fights or his outside the cage antics like smashing a bus window, McGregor’s influence on the sport cannot be denied. He has already changed the sport twice. We will go into those pivotal moments and look at what’s behind his latest fight with Cowboy Cerrone and how that will change MMA as well.

Conor McGregor And The “Champ-Champ” Era

Conor McGregor made his name on winning both the featherweight and lightweight belts and holding them at the same time. He sparked Jose Aldo for the featherweight strap and Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight. He became the first ever champion to hold two belts at the same time. Before him, only BJ Penn and Randy Couture won championships in multiple weight classes but never at the same time.

Once McGregor proclaimed himself the “champ-champ” his legacy was cemented. He beat the most dominant champion in featherweight history, Jose Aldo, waged two timeless fights with Nate Diaz, and shined in his lightweight fight.

As mentioned earlier, there were only three people to hold two different titles in UFC history. However, once McGregor did it, that changed the sport. We saw an explosion in new dual champions and attempts at two belts. Georges St-Pierre grabbed a second belt, albeit not two at the same time. Daniel Cormier held the light heavyweight and heavyweight belt and became the first fighter to defend one. Nunes became the women’s bantamweight and featherweight champion and has since defended her bantamweight title. Henry Cejudo became “Triple C” for winning the featherweight and bantamweight titles as well as a gold medal in Olympic wrestling.

Then there are the attempts. TJ Dillashaw went down to flyweight to fight for the belt. Max Holloway went up to fight for the interim lightweight strap. Joanna Jędrzejczyk got battered by Valentina Shevchenko in an attempt at her second belt as well.

Then there are the fighters planning to fight in other classes. Israel Adesanya and Valentina Shevchenko have all expressed interest in moving up to fight for their second belts as well.

The timing of this is not coincidence. Conor McGregor changed how people saw greatness in the UFC and fighters wanted to chase that greatness. McGregor probably stole this metric from boxing. Having more than one belt is natural in boxing, as you get older you get heavier and fight up. The sport is following boxing more and more, something we will touch on later.

McGregor and Floyd Mayweather

Then McGregor changed the sport a second time. This time he brought the boxing and MMA worlds together and put on perhaps the biggest spectacle in combat sports history. Conor McGregor was the biggest star MMA has ever seen. Floyd Mayweather was the biggest personality in boxing the last two decades have to offer.

The two devised a lucrative plan: fight each other. And it was lucrative. McGregor has made $8 million in martial arts. He earned ten times that fighting Mayweather; reportedly $85 million. Floyd Mayweather made an estimated $275 million.

The two played it perfectly. Mayweather was 49-0, tied with Rocky Marciano for the longest undefeated record in boxing. McGregor was the perfect dance partner, he was the first to be able to hype a fight like Mayweather can. The feat will be attempted, but not with the success this fight had.

So how did Conor McGregor change MMA here? Now MMA fighters are trying to box. Most recently, Jorge Masvidal said he wants to fight Canelo, which we said in an earlier piece, is a bad idea. Stipe Miocic says he wants to fight Tyson Fury. Nate Diaz has said he wants to box also.

While none of these fights have come to fruition yet, there are two things pointing to it happening more frequently in the future.

First is the Bare Knuckle matchup between Artem Lobov and Paulie Malignaggi. Artem is a training partner of McGregor’s and Malignaggi attempted to help McGregor train for the Mayweather fight. McGregor and Malignaggi has a falling out and there was bad blood. Unfortunately, Malignaggi couldn’t lure McGregor into the boxing ring again. But he did get to fight his training partner, a fight which he lost. There was tons of hype for this fight, which went on to be not as exciting as people had hoped. But it showed that these guys do want to fight each other some way or another.

The crossovers don’t go one way either. Tyson Fury has began training with Darren Till for an MMA crossover. On the women’s side, boxing phenom, Clarissa Shields has stated she wants to fight Amanda Nunes.

The second much simpler sign that McGregor brought boxing and MMA closer is the creation of Zuffa Boxing. Zuffa will likely announce it’s boxing intentions this year some time. With Dana White over that and the UFC, it is bound to make crossovers even easier for athletes.

Conor McGregor has brought MMA and boxing closer and closer and he’s about to do that once again at UFC 246.

The Tune Up Fight

MMA fans’ chief complaint about boxing is the tune up fights. It has frustrated fans for years that want to see the two best fighters fight. Mayweather-Pacquiao, Wilder-Joshua, Spence-Crawford are all examples of fights that took forever or have not happened yet. That’s what makes the UFC so great. The champion fights the best every fight. There are very few mismatches coming up in the ranks as well.

That is all coming to an end at UFC 246. Conor McGregor takes on Donald Cerrone in the main event. While it is stellar matchmaking, the fight is really a tune up for McGregor. Cowboy has been put away in his last two fights against Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson. McGregor is coming out of a loss in a title fight. While McGregor’s inactivity has hurt his rankings, Cowboy’s number six ranking is completely fabricated despite the “quality losses.”

After getting beat by Khabib Nurmagomedov, it was not only Khabib’s skills that had McGregor on his heels, it was his rust as well. Before you go saying “Blaine thinks Conor only lost because he didn’t fight for forever, what a stan,” I’m saying that the ring rust is part of the equation, but not the reason he lost.

Conor was trigger shy and was incredibly weary of the takedown, rightfully so, it was his undoing in the Khabib fight. McGregor blames a terrible training camp, and I think there is some truth in this.

Now, McGregor is getting an easy fight, or at least, what he perceives as an easy fight. They’re not doing a weight cut, the matchup will likely go McGregor’s way. While it may not be as extreme as some boxing tune up fights, it is a tune up none the less. Expect Conor McGregor to showcase his skills, be more relaxed and get a relatively easy win instead of the fight with Justin Gaethje or Dustin Poirier like he should be fighting.

We already see the effects. Henry Cejudo is calling for an “easy fight” instead of fighting a contender like Aljamain Sterling or Petr Yan. You can look for it to become more and more common place in the sport. Israel Adensanya is taking the lesser fight with Yoel Romero (I know, don’t laugh) as opposed to someone who is coming off a win in his division.

Conor McGregor will look to subtly change MMA once again next weekend as he takes on Cowboy Cerrone. While his actions outside the cage are questionable he has cemented his legacy in MMA and the UFC as one of the trailblazers of the sport. Put him on the Mount Rushmore next to Renzo Gracie, Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre.

Conor McGregor: Changing MMA Again

Relive Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2 ahead of his fight with Cowboy Cerrone at UFC 246.

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