Conor McGregor's Mouth Wrote the Check; Can His Fists Cash It?
Conor McGregor doesn't embody the most well-rounded fighter in the UFC's featherweight division. The twice-beaten 25-year-old can't claim to possess the best striking, wrestling or submission chops at 145 pounds, either.
In spite of these factors, McGregor still symbolizes one of the most hyped European mixed martial artists in the sport's history, and that's primarily because of his eccentric personality.
McGregor also possesses an enthralling fighting style and a rare killer instinct, and he's a winner of his last 10 scraps.
But has McGregor, who tore his ACL in a win over Max Holloway at UFC Fight Night 26, gone overboard with his comments regarding the company's top 10 ranked featherweights? And will the mouth that brought the unorthodox striker fame and notoriety back him into a corner that he can't fight out of?
McGregor has adopted the linguistic principles of some of the sport's most polarizing personalities. In essence, "Notorious" has transformed himself from an unknown Cage Warriors Fighting Championships linchpin to an Irish version of Chael Sonnen.
If he can return on schedule in roughly a year, McGregor hopes to get the opportunity to back up the daggers he hurled at the UFC's 10 most heralded featherweights, including divisional linchpin Jose Aldo.
McGregor has even engaged in verbal warfare via Twitter with featherweight Diego Brandao and lightweight staple Diego Sanchez, adding the Jackson's MMA teammates to his list of UFC enemies.
During an August interview with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani, McGregor took it a step further and offered insulting quips to describe each of his potential counterparts.
Plays it safe [Jose Aldo]; bantamweight [Chad Mendes]; nobody cares [Ricardo Lamas]; bantamweight [Frankie Edgar]; old [Cub Swanson]; too wild [Chan-Sung Jung, a.k.a., "The Korean Zombie"]; peahead [Dustin Poirier]; old [Dennis Siver]; boring [Nik Lentz]; boring [Clay Guida]; don't even know him [Erik Koch].
Assuming all goes well in the healing process, McGregor will ultimately tangle with extraordinarily-motivated versions of guys like Koch, Guida or Lentz, supposing they took what he said to heart.
If the still green McGregor can pass any of those tests, which seems feasible in some cases, he'll have even hungrier and more gifted maulers like Swanson, Lamas or Mendes requesting his competition.
Will Conor McGregor eventually back up his words regarding the UFC's top-10 ranked featherweights?
While Notorious may own the striking chops needed to hang with fighters toward the bottom of the contender's list at 145, he must significantly refine his wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu games if he intends to bang with the division's best fighters.
Without considering a bout with Aldo—since that seems far-fetched at this point—McGregor would surely struggle to compete with the top five in the division, even with a year's time to learn and evolve.
Mendes and Lamas would hold advantages over Notorious in power striking, submissions and wrestling, and the styles of Edgar and Swanson, while obviously different, would each give McGregor fits.
The Korean Zombie would likely represent the lone top five featherweight that McGregor could flourish against upon his return.
An extremely accurate and technical striker, McGregor could outpoint fifth-ranked Zombie, or in an unlikely case, score a KO, but even then, how far could that propel him?
At some point, McGregor must invest less energy in his public persona and spend more time honing his craft, particularly in the wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu departments.
Regardless of how entertaining his act has become, McGregor will squander his bravado the instant he gets outclassed by one of the men he prematurely called out.
He undoubtedly gained the respect of the UFC's brass for out-grappling a healthy Max Holloway for two-and-a-half rounds with a torn ACL. However, McGregor is now faced with the arduous task of earning the admiration of the division's elite, something that can only be done by making good on his outlandish comments.
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