has decisions to make after knocking out Jose Aldo. Though the way he operates, options may cede to visions, and visions may become reality.
“If you can see it here,” McGregor, pointing to his well-coiffed head, said during Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “And you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen.”
McGregor has had the courage to say and do a great many things. Eight years ago, a young, pimply-faced Irish fighter said on video that he was coming to the to be crowned champion and make more money than he knew what to do with. Now, when people say the name Conor McGregor, “UFC champion” and “incredibly wealthy” are among the first phrases that come to mind.
“At 27 years of age I stand here as the unified [UFC] champion,” McGregor said after the weekend’s fight. “Back-to-back gate records in the MGM. This is trending as the highest pay-per-view of all time for the UFC … I’m going straight up. I’m bringing these big numbers and the sky is the limit.”
McGregor has accomplished success through belief, natural feel, calculation and hard work. It’s not just that McGregor wins fights and makes money doing so. He over-delivers. He tells you when and how he will beat his opponents. . Aldo hadn’t lost in 10 years. McGregor predicted he would beat the great Brazilian champion by a first-round knockout. Moreover, he said it would happen when Aldo loaded up on his jackhammer right and he came across in response with a precision left, a weapon among the most feared in mixed martial arts. .
McGregor, then, is a study in the law of attraction. See something in your mind. Find the courage to say out loud what you see. And it will come to you. Currently he’s clear on what the big picture looks like, but the path is less obvious. He’ll head home to Dublin, enjoy Christmas with his family and rest after putting in “a hell of a lot of work this year”.
“I’ll sit back in the shadows for Christmas and plot, and then come back in the new year with something for you all,” McGregor said. “It will form before me. I will keep my ear to the ground and see what people are interested in most.”
There are options, three solid ones at that, and as McGregor very well knows options are what you want in the fight game.
The first starts with Aldo. The Portuguese-speaking featherweight was misquoted by his translator after the match as saying he felt the 13-second outcome wasn’t a fight. Aldo did not say that. He gave McGregor credit, said it wasn’t his day, and he looked forward to a chance to compete again. “I believe that after this fight we have to go for a rematch,” Aldo said. “It is not done yet.” The UFC could sell this fight in a big way, but there may be fan fatigue here considering the whole of 2015 was consumed by the build-up to the fight. Still, a rematch between McGregor and Aldo in Ireland would be a massive spectacle, giving the new champion the kind of showcase he envisioned for his next fight back home.
The second sees McGregor defend the 145lb title against American Frankie Edgar. This would be a terrific and lucrative fight, and would likely be extremely competitive. Edgar, a former lightweight champion who is 5-1 in the featherweight division (his only loss was a decision to Aldo), offers the kind of style that McGregor nonbelievers could cling to in hopes that he’d experience the sting of defeat felt by Ronda Rousey and Chris Weidman in recent months.
The third is the most ambitious, and it’s the one that seems to interest McGregor the most.
“We have options. We have some decisions to make,” he said. “But most certainly I’m looking to replicate what I achieved in my previous promotion: a two-weight world champion, held consecutively. I said I would do it, and I will do it.”
Before joining the UFC, McGregor’s star rose in the British promotion Cage Warriors Fighting Championship. After 11 fights at 155lbs, he dropped weight to challenge for the CWFC featherweight title in June 2012. On New Year’s Eve he won the promotion’s lightweight title, too. In April 2013 he returned to 145lbs, starching Marcus Brimage in 67 seconds to win his UFC debut.
“Although I wasn’t considering leaving the featherweight division for good because I’m the unified [UFC] champion, this is my division I say what I do now,” said McGregor. “So maybe I feel there’s a couple of contenders in the mix. Let them go up and compete against each other while I go up and take the lightweight belt. Allow a contender to emerge. Go down and take out that contender. And go back up when a lightweight contender emerged and takeout that contender.
“That was what my career path, I felt, was taking shape.”
Next Saturday, UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos defends the belt against Donald Cerrone in Florida. Depending on the outcome of the match, McGregor may take a break from the hard weight cut that accompanies fights at 145lbs, and make a match in a tremendously deep but muddled weight class that he says needs his help.
“It’s not even a pay-per-view card so the division is struggling big time,” he said of the Dos Anjos-Cerrone event on Fox. “The division needs me. I don’t need the division. I’ll play it be ear and see.”
Fights at lightweight come with the reality of added risk and no real difference in payoff. McGregor will generate what he’ll generate, and plus or minus 10lbs won’t matter much to the bottom line — even with the never-before-done attraction of one man holding two belts at the same time inside the UFC. Making featherweight is a hard cut, but the new champion pointed out he’s never missed weight or not shown up fresh. He’s active and needs to be.
“If I go to lightweight, there’s no way I’m vacating that belt,” McGregor said. “There will be one belt on this shoulder and one belt on the other. I stay busy. I will be a dual weight champion and the belts will still be active, because I’m as active as anyone.”
Fighting is where McGregor is great. Control over his career, to the extent that he or any other fighter has it in the UFC, is derived from the money he generates by being great. and the UFC is talking up the pay-per-view numbers as record breakers.
The notion of operating as a simultaneous two-division holder in the UFC? It hasn’t been done – not just because of how difficult it is to accomplish, but also the UFC hasn’t allowed it. McGregor’s push may be something different. No other UFC champion has talked about money like McGregor has. For a sport whose financial picture has long been murky, this is new. This also empowers him.
To what extent? That depends on where the visions take him. “What did Floyd-Manny do?” he said. “Seventy-two million gate. We done $10.1m. We’re catching up. I’m only 27. Them old [men] were 40 before they got that on. I’m only warming up.”
If he can put together a two-year run, McGregor may not reach Mayweather-Pacquiao numbers, but he will fulfil, in every sense of the word, what he expressed in 2008. The Dubliner speaks of his future and his career in the UFC as few fighters have. That’s his vision and courage. But then history reveals UFC holds most of the cards. Fighter leverage is a fleeting thing for no other reason than is an incredibly difficult sport to dominate, making even a figure of McGregor’s stature susceptible to hard falls. Add in the power wielded by his promoter and you see where a vision could bump up with an unexpected and hard reality.
For now options will lead to conversations.
Later? Negotiations for co-promotions and nine-figure contracts. These are things McGregor said he seeks to do in a space where they haven’t been done.
Does that mean he’s positioned to make demands about revenue splits and gate receipts? Or when and where he fights? Is he able to say there’s no way he won’t give up a belt if he moves up a weight class, and make it so?
“Maybe I can these days,” McGregor said with a smile. “Maybe I can.”