Conor McGregor didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome following a triumphant in-cage return at UFC 246 in Las Vegas on Saturday night. At least, not from the MMA fanbase at large.
McGregor’s return to the octagon was exactly what the UFC needed — a shot in the arm care of the biggest star in the sport’s history. Yet the reaction to McGregor’s win, a dazzling display of creative striking, has been sadly predictable in certain corners of the fandom.
Fans at the arena were clearly in awe of the performance, and more than happy with the spectacle they shelled out considerable money for. Outside that? The narrative, frankly, was written well before the fight ever took place.
The first, and most despicable of the talking points now floating around the MMA community at large, was that Donald Cerrone had been paid to take a dive. Even Nate Diaz got in on that claim. By who, of course, is never clear in these sorts of imbecilic accusations. The UFC? Why? No top-tier promotion is about to risk their license, and a multitude of lawsuits, to fix a fight that didn’t need fixing.
From a logical standpoint — and logic is something these gripes always seem to lack — if McGregor loses, the UFC gains a marketable rematch with Cowboy, whose stock then jumps up similar to that of Nate Diaz a few years back. Frankly, McGregor’s star power reaches far past his win-loss record, and besides, heading into UFC 246, he’d lost all of two fights inside the octagon. It’s not as if he was a .500 fighter on the brink of being cut.
Would McGregor ever agree to a fixed fight, or try to fix one himself? The amount of hubris the man has shown over the years would suggest not. And Cowboy Cerrone?
If anyone thinks for a single moment that Donald Cerrone would agree to something as pedestrian and ill-planned as throwing a fight, they need to remove themselves from the fandom.
Again, however, the narrative was written before the fight. Literally. From the second the fight was announced, there were accusations that the fix was in.
The second talking point, spouted well in advance by those dismissive of McGregor, is that Donald Cerrone is a can. Washed up. These are quite often the same souls who were no doubt touting the merits of Dad Cerrone just three fights ago, the one submitting Mike Perry at welterweight and picking apart Al Iaquinta at lightweight.
The reality is, Cerrone’s a top-tier fighter who has always struggled with slow starts. Against McGregor, he was booked into a match-up against an opponent who starts fast, one who has pin-point accuracy and heavy hands. Favorable booking for McGregor? Perhaps, but Cerrone had his own path to victory. Had the fight gone on, he might have found that path.
He didn’t. Cowboy lost. So be it. He lives to ride — and fight — another day.
This is not to simply sing the praises of Conor McGregor. The Irish star is as notorious outside the cage as in it these days, and for good (or bad) reason. Conor the Athlete and Conor the Man are two different animals, however. Whatever you think of Conor the Man — who has been public enemy number one since attacking a fighter bus at UFC 223 — trying to twist the narrative or discredit the feats of Cerrone is downright childish. Cerrone holds more records than just about anyone in the UFC, and remains its winningest fighter.
Of course, the court of public opinion seems to be all that matters these days. McGregor’s indiscretions, including a pair of alleged sexual assault investigations that have not led to a single charge over the course of an entire year, have made him worthy of lynching in a culture that has quickly done away with any notion of due process. That’s a debate for another day. And if those allegations are enough for you to side against McGregor, so be it. That’s understandable — but trying to discredit the promotion, or McGregor’s opponent, in order to fit your narrative that McGregor is somehow a poor fighter is downright sad.
Besides, the UFC does more than enough on its own when it comes to deserving criticism.
MMA fans are a passionate bunch, and without them, there’s no sport. But at the same time, it’s clear some have simply lost touch with reality when it comes to one of the sport’s most controversial stars.