Conor McGregor UFC 257

Coming into the first-ever trilogy fight of his career, MMA’s biggest superstar “The Notorious” Conor McGregor faces a seemingly pivotal crossroad. His third fight with top-ranked Dustin Poirier is the only 14th trilogy bout in UFC history. If you look at the books, all trilogies in the UFC ended with the winner of the second fight clinching the decisive third dance (except for two: Sam Stout and BJ Penn). With the second bout going to Poirier via KO, the American definitely has momentum on his side while the pressure is on the Irish megastar to right his wrongs from the last fight.

If you’ve been following Conor’s rise from the undercards to the mainstream consciousness, you’d know that every step of the way had lore, mystique, and tremendous hype surrounding it. This is largely due to the Irishman’s remarkable ability to market himself and generate intrigue about what incredible thing he’s gonna do next. He was combat sports entertainment personified– reinventing the game in ways that can only be described as “legendary.”  From his UFC debut in 2013 to his double champ status in 2016, McGregor has turned the entire MMA world into Conor-mania as he strikes the perfect balance between overwhelming hype and outstanding results over and over again.

But as of late, the results haven’t been living up to the hype.

MMA is a “what have you done for me lately” business. As harsh as that may sound, this is the name of the fight game. And if you just look at his last five years in the sport, McGregor has only fought six times (including his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr.) and has lost three, with those losses coming by way of stoppage (2 KO/TKOs, 1 Sub). This is Conor McGregor– the Irish Supernova who dubbed himself “The face of the fight game”– getting beaten so badly the referee had to save his life.

I know there are many nuances that happen in a fight and we cannot simply judge a man’s potential and ability solely based on optics and numbers, but we’re talking about the perception of the world here– from hardcore fanatics to casual viewers to people who call MMA “That UFC thing”. That mixed crowd is terribly unforgiving as it is swiftly forgetful. Just the social media pulse alone is riddled with Tweets and posts and comments dismissing Conor as a has-been and is a shell of what he once was– pointing out that the Irish striker is nothing but a pale imitation of his glory days. Oddsmakers are pitting him as an underdog against Poirier— only the third time in his UFC career.

So this begs the question, what will happen to Conor if he loses at UFC 264?

The short answer is nothing, really. Even with a loss at UFC 264– no matter where he ends up in the rankings– Conor will always be the UFC’s cash cow until he decides to hang his gloves for good. Remember, just a few weeks ago, fan-favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was riding a streak of four fights without a win but still clinched a co-main event spot of UFC on ESPN 24– and he’s not even in the same stratosphere as Conor’s star power. McGregor’s job security is rock solid while his financial earnings have set him and his family for life.

The long answer is, well, his legacy will be in question. We all know that Conor doesn’t really have to fight anymore. Prizefighting– in its purest sense– is a sport for the poor. No one else is willing to risk his life for money than those who are desperate to find a better life above the dirt of poverty. Conor is years away from his days of cashing welfare checks from the government. So what’s he fighting for now? Legacy. Despite the recent naysayers and people dismissing Conor’s ability in the cage, it can still be argued that the Irishman’s Legacy is already set in stone, having achieved things no one’s ever done before. But that doesn’t mean he cannot further this legacy beyond what he’s already achieved. Beating Poirier and pushing forward to a possible second lightweight title reign will further cement his place as one of the greatest — if not the greatest– ever.

And believe it or not, that might still be Conor’s ultimate goal after all his years and achievements in fighting.

Watch Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3 and the complete UFC 264 fight card only on ESPN+ this Saturday, July 10. Order PPV here.

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