Conor McGregor is nearing a return to the Octagon. It is a tangible thing; even though McGregor won’t yet step in the cage for over two months, we can already feel the tremors emanating from Dublin, where McGregor resides and where he’ll face Cole Miller in the main event of a UFC event in July.
We can feel it because McGregor has started talking again. Not that he ever stopped to begin with, of course. If there is one thing McGregor never stops doing, it’s talking. The Irishman hasn’t competed in the UFC since last August, but you’d never know it by the amount of screen time he gets.
Like Chael Sonnen, McGregor is a man known for just saying whatever comes to his mind. The difference is that with Sonnen, we all feel like we’re part of the joke. Sonnen isn’t winking at us specifically, but there’s a playfulness to his antics. He knows he is playing a game. We know he is playing a game. He knows we know he is playing a game. And so everyone plays along and has a grand old time.
McGregor is different. He’s got all of the obnoxiousness of the best Sonnen material but none of the charm. There are no winks, no sly smiles. McGregor is convinced that rich rewards come to those who talk the loudest.
And kudos to him, because it is working. During his time on the shelf, he has been the subject of countless callouts from other featherweights, ranked and unranked.
In his second UFC fight, he became the first co-main event fighter in UFC history to receive the kind of walk-out treatment typically reserved for main eventers. He went (sort of) viral in a video with Dana White, cruising the Las Vegas strip in White’s screaming Ferrari. He’ll return for his first UFC main event in July.
McGregor and Miller have been on a collision course for quite some time now, ever since Miller called out “McGoober” in a post-fight interview. This, of course, ranked up there with the weakest insults in the history of insults, because there is nothing dumber than not-so-subtly changing someone’s name in order to insult them. In a trash-talking battle, Miller is no contest for McGregor.
“That man opened his mouth,” McGregor told UFC Tonight’s Kenny Florian and Sonnen Wednesday. “He was under the influence of post-fight adrenaline. It has the same effect as alcohol. It makes you brave. He spoke with bravery, but guess what happened? It wore off. Now, he’s faced with reality, that he’s going to face me July 19.”
McGregor is confident, as he always is, but he has never faced someone of Miller’s skill. Even though the American Top Team product has consistently underwhelmed and underperformed throughout his career, he’s still dangerous. McGregor is just 2-0 in the Octagon; Miller has been in the UFC since 2007.
Or, put it this way: Miller was already in the UFC before McGregor even made his professional debut.
That won’t keep McGregor from talking, of course. It never does. He told Florian and Sonnen he’d dispatch Miller and move on to the rest of the folks who have dared to call him out. He included featherweight champion Jose Aldo in that mix.
“I’ve been listening to everybody calling me out and saying this and saying that, and I’ve been forced to sit on the sidelines,” he said. “I’m going to stomp Cole. Whoever’s next. Cub? I’ll break Cub. I’ll embarrass Chad. I’ll annihilate Jose. I’m coming to take over the division. It’s my division.”
McGregor is entertaining. There’s nothing wrong with that. And there is no denying he is a skilled fighter with a bright future.
But let’s hope he is taking Miller far more seriously than he’s letting on, because it is not an easy fight. McGregor is making the leap from regional and middle-of-the-pack opponents to a tough and durable UFC veteran.
And while a loss won’t ruin his career, it’ll certainly dampen the shine he has created by opening his mouth every time a microphone is placed in front of him.