Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and the UFC

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The recent McGregor-Diaz match up did not disappoint. It was a 5-round war and was one of the best we’ve seen in recent MMA history. McGregor came out early and put Nate on his bottom a few times. Nate came back and swarmed him for the much of the remainder of the fight, knocking him down once and the fight ended with time running out just as Nate Diaz had taken him down and was mounting a ground and pound game.   Now before I go further let me say that I am a huge fan of both of these fighters. Personally I hope McGregor goes on to decimate fighters like Eddie Alvarez, and then eventually fight a rematch with Nate Diaz. Nevertheless I have some thoughts to get off my chest.

The decision was not a “robbery”

The fight was close and one could conceivably score it for Nate Diaz. But to label it a robbery is simply not true. There is no route to making the case that Diaz ‘obviously’ won. Most fans who think this way are likely letting the last round play an exaggerated role in their mind and are overlooking the magnitude of McGregor’s early dominance.

McGregor did not entirely get ‘revenge’

McGregor’s narrow decision (which was arguably really a draw) affords him some redemption but it includes the visual of him occasionally ‘running away’ and on his back taking a pounding at the end of the fight. The narrow decision doesn’t erase the visuals of him getting knocked around, nor rolling to his stomach so he can let Nate choke him out as a preferable way to be finished. His aura of invincibility is gone and it will be interesting to see if his entertaining cockiness will be evidence in future fights.

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McGregor did NOT move up 2 weight classes/30 pounds

MMA commentary is awash with statements claiming that McGregor moved up 2 weight classes, or that he was fighting “30 pounds above his weight.” Neither of these are true. McGregor has been fighting at 145 and Nate Diaz at 155. They merely happened to fight at the 170 weight class, which is above both of their weights. It’s true that Diaz has fought at 170 in the past, but this doesn’t negate the fact that he still routinely makes 155. Diaz is indeed a big for 155 but probably less so than McGregor is for 145.  What this misconception serves to do is to exaggerate McGregor’s size disadvantage, making his initial defeat seem “understandable” and his subsequent victory a modern marvel that defies the laws of physics.

About that size difference….

Much has been made about McGregor “fighting a bigger man.” The problem here: McGregor has been fighting smaller opponents up until now. The size difference between Diaz and McGregor is likely no different than the difference between McGregor and Jose Aldo or Chad Mendes. So if one is going to “credit” McGregor for fighting a bigger man, the honest thing to do is to also admit that he’s been beating smaller opponents.

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Oh, and in case you missed it…

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Nate Diaz is largely underrated

Many were quick to gloat that the mighty McGregor had fallen, celebrating that he “couldn’t even beat Nate Diaz” who himself has a string of losses. But Nate Diaz has taken fights on last-minute notice, fought at 170, and doesn’t pull out of fights due to injuries as other fighters with cleaner records have (Raphael Dos Anjos, Jose Aldo, Khabib Nurmagomedov, etc). Hence, it’s difficult to draw true comparisons to those considered to be top fighters since we don’t get to see how THEY’D fare in these situations.  Hence, the condescension is unwarranted.

Dana White is preserving his cash cow

Dana White rightly wants McGregor to avoid third fight with Diaz, and has repeated the “30 lbs above his weight” marketing mantra. If McGregor loses again, his remaining marketability evaporates and he’ll likely never pull these sorts of PPV numbers again. This is bad business, so it makes sense to want to see Conor McGregor fight others he is more likely to beat. It’s possible that McGregor will do better against more orthodox fighters who, stylistically are a better matchup for him than the tall and highly unorthodox south paw and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. The hooks that dropped Diaz might have actually ended the fight against other 155 lb fighters.

McGregor is still an unknown quantity

We still don’t know how McGregor will fare against the more orthodox lightweights. We still haven’t seen him fight a wrestler (unless you count Chad Mendes, who fought on a 2 week notice, meaning he didn’t get a training camp and largely dominated the fight before tiring). It will be interesting to see if McGregor is able to compete with the take down artists at 155.

UFC is entertainment company, not a “martial arts” company.

Fight fans who want to see the best fighters fight each other, or to see the guy who “deserves to fight for the belt” in fact, fight for the belt are often frustrated by the match ups. But the UFC exists to make money. There is simply more money to be made from putting on “super fights” that will rake in record PPV numbers than to put on a fight between two simple fighters who simply train and fight to win.

khabib

And this is why casual fight fans tend not to know who fighters like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Demetrious Johnson (often regarded as the #1 pound for pound fighter in MMA) are. These men don’t run their mouths like Conor McGregor, they are quiet and only say what needs to be said. They are not mysterious/misunderstood bad boys like the Diaz brothers, they are simple men who train like mad men. They aren’t flashy, fighting with their hands down and goading opponents, they just win. And so of course, not one knows who they are because they are not entertaining. None of this is to imply that the McGregors and Diaz’s of the world DON’T train like mad men or aren’t top fighters, but rather to shed light on how/why fight cards are decided.  The UFC exists to make money, which means providing entertainment for the bulk of potential viewers (the vast majority of whom want to be entertained and aren’t interested in the art portion of martial arts.

 

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