Perhaps one of the biggest prerequisites to succeed in MMA is confidence, and the way Conor McGregor has been fighting and talking, he has that in abundance.
But when confidence is gained through performance on the biggest stages, the expectation is that those winning ways will continue—that the hype afforded by fans and media was not amiss but a true reflection of things to come.
For McGregor, a fighter who has only been on the big stage for a short period of time, it would seem as if he is destined for the title and everything else is just academic.
Days after his last victory, a decision over Max Holloway, he tweeted that he could smell fear in the featherweight division. That is no small claim when you consider that fighters such as Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo could be future opponents. Each of those men boasts a resume of success against fighters far more established than McGregor.
And if that is not enough, he’s now in a war of words with Diego Sanchez, claiming he could move up to 170 and defeat the The Ultimate Fighter winner easily.
Granted, time for any fighter in the UFC can be short, so no one can fault McGregor for trying to ensure that people are speaking his name. Self-promotion is the how the fight business is done these days. One only need look at Chael Sonnen for proof of that.
But perception is a tool pointed at both ends—failure to live up to any kind of hype can hurt a fighter’s career. The most recent example of this is Uriah Hall, who annihilated his competition on The Ultimate Fighter only to falter in his last two outings.
But McGregor continues on, unconcerned with the pressure he is putting on himself.
Now, the question is a simple one: Is McGregor believing his own hype?
He looked impressive against Holloway, dominating the fight everywhere it took place. Before that, he scored an early TKO over Marcus Brimage. He had an impressive 2011, fighting five times and winning all bouts via KO/TKO. In fact, out of all of his 14 victories, 12 have come by KO/TKO and one by submission.
But he’s relatively untested in UFC competition. Neither Brimage nor Holloway is a consistent finisher or has that much experience.
Does McGregor believe that he is so vastly superior to his 145-pound counterparts that victory is a foregone conclusion?
If so, then the talk does serve an end; he’s aggressively showing his willingness to fight anyone. That kind of attitude is exactly what the UFC brass wants out of its fighters. Combatants who show such willingness are usually pushed forward in their careers, which seems exactly what McGregor wants.
But until he beats a fighter in the Top 10, he should be careful for what he wishes for. It’s hard to imagine him being able to handle the likes of Mendes, Edgar, Chan Sung Jung or Ricardo Lamas at this stage in his career.
And forget about Aldo; if McGregor met the champ now, he’d be destroyed.
A better fit might be Nik Lentz or Dustin Poirier. Both men are not apt to be overwhelming with their knockout power but can test McGregor’s submission skills.
It’s always interesting when a fighter comes out bold, pointing fingers and raising eyebrows. But boldness should be what we want out of fighters, right?
And to be honest, I am already thinking about the possibilities of a bout between McGregor and Nate Diaz.
So let McGregor continue and the pieces fall where they may. In the end, it is up to the fighters, as it always has been.
And always should be.