Conor McGregor has long been a proponent of the art of visualization and the law of attraction. When I traveled to Dublin a year ago, I learned of McGregor's fondness for The Secret, the bestselling book often chalked up as malarkey. The idea is, you visualize wealth—you imagine yourself wealthy—and then someday the things you visualize will end up finding their way to you.
Perhaps it sounds silly to you, like it did to me. But whatever McGregor's secret may be, there is no question it has worked for him.
On Saturday night, it did not.
McGregor went into the Octagon against Nate Diaz, a late replacement opponent for the injured Rafael dos Anjos. He went in with more hype than perhaps any UFC star in the history of the promotion. And at first, things looked to be going exactly the way McGregor said they would.
He peppered Diaz with huge punches and kicks, bloodying him up before he even went back to his corner. McGregor was as calm and cocky as ever, and the end loomed.
Only when the end came, it came for the Irishman.
In a wild exchange of punches in the second round, Diaz caught McGregor and sent him reeling. A desperate McGregor shot in for a takedown—a clear sign he was far more hurt than he might have appeared. Diaz swept McGregor, took his back and sunk in a rear-naked choke for a massive upset win as the crowd erupted in the loudest ovation I have heard in almost 10 years of attending live UFC events.
It was the ultimate comeuppance for a man who built his stardom by belittling his opponents. In every other instance, though, McGregor was able to back up his talk with action in the Octagon. And who can blame him for feeling as confident as he did, lighting up Diaz and seeing a familiar story play out yet again?
But hubris is often the downfall of even the greatest athletes. And the things you'll hear about McGregor after this loss are that he was exposed, that he was finally proven to be a farce, or another one of the dumb things people say when they can't grasp anything more than the simplest situations.
The truth, of course, is more nuanced, as it usually is.
McGregor was not exposed as a talentless blowhard. He is still one of the world's great fighters, and he'll continue to have a prosperous UFC career. He is still the reigning featherweight champion, though I believe he'll still vacate that championship even with the loss on Saturday night.
The potential welterweight title fight with Robbie Lawler at UFC 200—a huge money fight that could have eclipsed every other money fight the UFC has ever promoted—is out the window. But there is still Rafael dos Anjos, perhaps, and maybe McGregor will decide to go back to featherweight and give Frankie Edgar or Jose Aldo a shot.
The way McGregor was exposed, however, was this: His bravado, his confidence and his incredible self-belief will only take him so far.
This sport is still about hurting your opponent, and it often teaches painful lessons to those who disrespect it. McGregor's disdain for Diaz's power and skill was evident on his face right up until the moment he realized he'd made a huge mistake.
"I'm not surprised, motherf--kers," Diaz said when approached by Joe Rogan after the fight.
Surprised, indeed, though perhaps we should not be. Diaz is a world-class talent, and McGregor's biggest mistake on this night was in wholly underestimating him in a way that cost him dearly.
"I am humble in victory and humble in defeat," McGregor said after the fight. It was a great thing to hear from an athlete knocked off his throne.
But perhaps, at least going forward, being humble also in preparation and in combat would be a good idea, too.