I’ve now been following the sport for over 6 years now, a sport that I got into because Conor’s trash talk would randomly pop on my feed - at that point I still followed WWE in bits and parts, and Conor’s trash talking soundbites were rather well matched feed recommendations.
I’ve since then tried studying MMA and Boxing as best as I can. MMA is such a complex sport and I guess even in other combat sports (and in perhaps other groups of sports as well) questions such as “Is Mayweather a runner in the ring?” or “Ali prime vs Tyson Prime” can rarely be answered as a definite black or white. And even after going through rounds of "Having said that..", you very rarely have an objective answer. I'm going to put forth my perspective on why the title of this piece - Connor cannot fight when bullied" - deserves to be one of those grey areas of conversation in MMA and NOT a definitive statement.
So first, let's look at the fighters Conor faced (and lost against) who have led to the creation and reinforcement of the sentiment that Conor crumbles when someone brings the fight to him - Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dustin Poirier (fights 2 and 3) and Nate Diaz (fight 1). Now, there's an overarching theme that played out in all these fights - As much as these guys were better on those nights against Conor, Conor betrayed his own philosophy in all these fights. Before I get shot down by a million colourful comments, I want to clarify that Conor could never beat Khabib, not that night, not on any other night, period. He however, could have won the other dropped fights had he, as I mentioned earlier, not betrayed his own philosophy.
Let me stop writing like an intolerable smartass and explain what I mean by Conor having betrayed his own philosophy. Before his recent streak of losses since 2018, Conor once described his attitude towards the sport as "I am cocky in prediction. I am confident in preparation. But I am always humble in victory or defeat." Such effortless articulation and eloquence on the mic, you've to admire that- very Ali-esque.
Regardless, let's dig deeper into the "confident in preparation" bit, yeah? Jon Jones once said and I agree "you want to know what's on a person's mind, you listen to his words". So what did Conor mean by that "confident in preparation" bit? He meant he derived his confidence from the rigour he put himself through during his training camps and perhaps outside of them too.
That in turn raises another question - but before I raise that, let's first truly grasp the entire context. By the time he fought Jose Aldo and made this iconic comment, he was already primetime unmissable TV material. The fans, media, and Dana White himself couldn't eat enough off of Conor's palms. Conor was not under the big lights, he WAS the big lights others wanted to be under. Red panty night, anyone? We're talking the biggest of big deals, folks - and now comes the question I wanted to raise.
Why did this megastar consciously make the choice of going through the dirty grind day in and day out when he could've simply coasted? Why could his confidence not have been derived from all the undivided attention? In one word - hunger! He had more than enough money, fame, attention, stardom, and everything an average person could ask for, but Conor's hunger to conquer more was not satiated. He still hadn't peeled off all of the plumber skin he used to live in back in the day. He trained like a working class man with nothing to his name. No wonder he felt confident in his preparations, wouldn't you?
So then what happened post 2018? Being rich is one thing, being fuck-you rich quite another. He had become beyond fuck-you rich by 2018, thanks to a certain Floyd Mayweather and his 9-figure payday. Proper 12 had blown up, and Conor's stock could only go one way: up and further up! Once you get fuck-you money, making even more money is almost not even a choice. You could sit on your ass and have people throwing more money at you for basically doing nothing.
This then leads to a rather important question for this richer-than-God character - do I make more money the easy way? Or do I do so the hard way? Factors such as legacy gets thrown around to answer this question, with legacy itself meaning one thing to John and a totally different thing to Jane. This is the point, where Conor, in retrospect decided to have it both ways. He could've simply run his multiple businesses and kept getting richer, but the warrior spirit deep down would never find meaning in that lifestyle, not the kind of meaning that it would find when Conor's left would crack another man's jaw.
Knocking another man out is a kind of high Conor clearly couldn't get from all the other worldly successes he had achieved outside the Octagon (not even from cocaine). So while he wanted this high, he also was very attached to all the outside glitz and glamour of his billion dollar lifestyle. But wait, was it really impossible to do both these hand-in-hand? One might think so. After all, how do you manifest that poor man hunger and work like an obsessed nobody trying to perfect his craft when you wake up everyday wearing silk pyjamas and a Rolex? But no, even this duality was not Conor's mistake. He wanted to have this seemingly impossible duality, and I believe he could have (and maybe still) had it.
How? To answer that, I'll bring up the one and only Floyd "money" Mayweather. Of the very few things God has made perfect in this world, Floyd's 50-0 boxing record is one of them, as he himself likes to point out every now and then.
Floyd happens to be the only man in the history of combat sports to have amassed more than a billion dollars from his boxing payouts alone. I mean, the man rightly said that with him on a Pay-Per-View event, they should term it May-Per-View. And even this payout doesn't scratch the surface of the total generational wealth Floyd has amassed, thanks to his multiple successful multi-millionaire businesses and endorsements outside of the boxing ring.
Safe to say, the man knows two things - how to make more and more money, how to never lose a fight. Conor never was and never will come close to being anywhere as wealthy as Floyd had become towards the end of his career. But then how come Floyd has a 0 in the losses column but Conor has, for all intents and purposes, lost that "it"?
Floyd made a choice. A choice, an extremely hard one, to be the best ever. TBE was never just a gimmick to him. As a child prodigy, he knew that he was born into an atmosphere that gave him a tremendous edge in pugilism over other competitors. What else do you expect when you have Roger Mayweather and Floyd Sr. getting a young 4-year old Floyd to hit the mitts, with the young kid enjoying it too.
Turns out that the love for that craft was so deeply embedded and reinforced daily from such an early age that Floyd's ultimate driver was to take this talent to a point where other competitors couldn't even compete, to a point where the other greats of his generation such as Oscar De La Hoya or Manny did not even belong in the same ring as his. This was his definition of "the best ever".
What Floyd was very aware of was his bank account could never fulfil this ultimate driver of his. His bank account was not the metric that could've made him the best ever - and guess what, Floyd was both aware of this, and he remembered it even when it was convenient to forget.
Let's now remember another of Conor's prime time quotes, one that I feel is an indicator of what drove his hunger when he was truly hungry - "I've lost my mind on this game like Vincent Van Gogh dedicated his life to his art and he lost his mind in the process. That's happened to me but fuck it. When that gold belt is wrapped around my waist and my mother has a big mansion, my girlfriend has a big car and my kids' kids get everything they ever wanted- then it will pay.
Then I will be happy I lost my mind." Again, what eloquence, beautiful! But once we decide to look beyond the romantic choice of words, you get to see what ultimately had been driving his "obsession" - for himself to be a champion and for his family to be more comfortable than they could ever fathom. The problem, as I see it through my dumb lens, is after achieving the championship and unimaginable comfort for his family, the man's warrior spirit was not done conquering, but Conor, unlike Floyd, had not revised his goals.
Conor has always spoken his mind and in fact painted his goals with crisp and crystal clarity. Do you remember Conor talking about what kept him going in the fight game since 2018? Because I don't! Against Khabib, it was a personal ego-driven vendetta, hardly a bigger cause such as being the best ever to do it.
Against Nate in their first fight, he gassed because he was overconfident that his left would be too much for Nate to go beyond Round 1, meaning he was not ready to adapt and adjust, no plan B, not something a man who trains like he has nothing would ever do. Against Dustin in their second fight, what was his motivation again?
Aah, to have a warm-up before fighting one of the greatest Boxing southpaws in Manny Pacquiao. So, let alone proving himself in any shape or form in MMA, his focus before the second Dustin fight was on boxing Manny, a different sport and challenge altogether. Do you see the overarching theme now? In all the fights he has dropped since 2018, Conor, unlike Floyd, chose to not have a bigger cause driving the extent to which he was willing to push himself in the gym.
He was not training like a poor man anymore because there was no unconquered purpose left for him, at least in MMA. It was ultimately his choice to not create that unconquered purpose for himself - where he did drop the ball was not reconciling this lack of purpose with his inner warrior's lack of satiation.
Does this mean that had he redefined a purpose for himself in MMA that could make him train like a man with nothing, he would have won all these fights? Maybe, maybe not. But what is for certain is he did not lose against Nate and Dustin simply because they chose to fight back. Yes, they chose to fight back, but it was Conor who chose not to go into the cage against another top contender with the hunger of a poor man. In fact, anyone who knows Eddie Alvarez's or Aldo's fighting style also knows that they are come forward, in your face, brawlers. I mean these are two quintessential "I'll bring it to you" fighters.
What did Conor do to them? Two of the most artistic finishes in the history of the UFC. Before you say "but they did not fight back", think harder - "why couldn't they fight back? Did they not want to? Or did Conor come in with the focus, mindset, and a game plan of a fighter who's hungry and not willing to leave a single stone unturned? Was it the Conor that showed up on those nights against Aldo and Alvarez a Conor that would simply not let you fight back?". You might say "yeah, but ultimately, Conor did not have to face adversity, so how come it's his mindset that separated the Conor pre 2018 and the one post 2018?".
Umm, cast your mind back to Conor fighting Chad Mendez and Nate in Conor-Nate 2. In both fights, Conor faced adversity and won - how? He prepared for facing said adversity, his hunger was way too high to not foresee and not prepare for adversity. He went in, a cornered animal, primed and hungry for food!
Top comments (3)
Nice post! Can't wait till he comes back 🤗
Hope he clears USADA. 🙏
So do I! 😆