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What’s next for Conor McGregor?

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Earlier this week, the UFC’s top star, Conor McGregor was arrested after an incident where he allegedly smashed someone’s phone outside of a club in Miami, Florida. The former two-division champion was charged with a felony, strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief, and was taken into custody before he was released on $12,500 bond.

This latest incident puts doubt around his return to the octagon, with recent rumors suggesting potential opponents for his next bout in the cage.

Reportedly, the confrontation started because someone took a picture of the MMA fighter as he was leaving the club, which prompted McGregor to grab the phone and smash it on the ground. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first felony he was charged with, as the brash Irishman was initially charged with a felony offense, stemming from the infamous bus incident last April in Brooklyn. That arrest resulted from when McGregor threw a moving dolly through a bus window that transported the fighters booked on that weekend’s card, and there were injuries that caused event to be shuffled. Eventually, the charges were reduced and Conor pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct, which saw him ordered to complete community service.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCJ4tZDWWng&w=560&h=315]

Footage of the bus incident was later used in commercials to promote the Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov bout at UFC 229, which generated a record-setting 2.4 million buys.

As was well-documented, after Khabib won via submission in the fourth round of a mostly one-sided contest, he jumped over the octagon and fought members of McGregor’s corner. A complete brawl began when people from Nurmagomedov’s team stormed the cage to attempt to attack Conor. The McGregor and Khabib fight teams continued to brawl while security attempted to restore order in the building. Post-fight, Khabib cited Conor’s previous comments about his family as the reason for the outburst after the victory. Granted, McGregor’s antics are just to sell the pay-per-view, but Khabib took it as a serious insult. Both fighters were retroactively suspended in January, but realistically, neither suspension delayed when each competitor was expected to compete again.

However, the post-fight brawl and this latest incident are apart of a pattern that suggests that McGregor might think that he can get away with these ridiculous antics because of his status in combat sports.

Make no mistake about it, Conor McGregor draws major money, and that “buys” him a certain amount of latitude, similar to how he can buy a savvy lawyer to navigate this legal jeopardy for him. It also allows him to remain an important fixture of the UFC’s business plan because the organization needs star power to sell its $65 pay-per-view events. The lack of star power on the roster resulted from a combination of retirements, shaky structure within particular divisions, and a general over saturation of shows during the Fox deal. But, the ESPN contract allows for a more productive schedule and increased exposure for a new generation of fighters so it’s definitely possible that more fighters will have a platform to make a name for themselves.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCzeyg774Vs&w=560&h=315]

With Conor’s arraignment on these most recent charges scheduled in a few weeks, there are several questions about the future of the former 155 lbs champion. While there’s no doubt that the $100 million payday from his Floyd Mayweather boxing match in 2016 along with sponsorships and UFC bouts provided him with financial security, what direction does McGregor’s career go from here? At the very least, something as petty as a smashed phone will delay him from competition in the prime of his career.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf_63mPWCaM&w=560&h=315]

The problem could arise that McGregor will become more sizzle than substance, an aspect that some MMA purist will already point toward despite his success in the sport. While he’s undoubtedly a talented striker, the Dublin native lacks a solid ground game and his four career defeats are via submission. UFC brass carefully promoted and marketed McGregor as the top star in the organization, allowing him the opportunity to win championships in two divisions. But, he never defended either belt and was stripped because of his hiatus from MMA. He took two years away from the octagon for the mega fight against Floyd, which saw him stopped by TKO in the tenth round. His anticipated return to the cage last October ended a lopsided contest with a submission defeat.

Fans haven’t seen Conor victorious in combat sports in two and half years, with no indication of when he will fight again. Does that mean his popularity will plummet? No, but if he loses his next bout, much of the shine could fade from the star of Conor McGregor. Keep in mind, there was a time when Ronda Rousey’s meteoric rise in MMA looked unstoppable but when the hype around her was derailed by one-sided defeats, her stock dropped in MMA. The point is, the buzz even around McGregor could decrease if he can’t remain competitive in the sport. Obviously, another court case won’t be beneficial to the preparation of his next fight in the UFC.

More than anything, the biggest takeaway from this latest incident is that Conor McGregor should make better decisions and he’s smart enough to know better than to get involved in something this petty. He’s smart enough to create a Ric Flair-inspired brand and market it to the main stream, but he gets himself charged with a felony because someone took a picture of him in public. The previously mentioned ESPN deal is a major step to cement UFC as something more than just a modern trend, but rather a prominent addition to main stream sports in the United States. Some of Conor’s outrageous antics reinforce some of the negative stereotypes that were around the sport prior to the exposure of mainstream television.

There are numerous examples of cautionary tales in sports and some of the biggest names in history had a fall from stardom. Conor McGregor should make smart decisions in the future before his antics outside of the octagon overshadow his accomplishments in the sport.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

MMA

UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story

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UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249

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It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans

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UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.

It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.

Live action

The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled. 

And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.

Mouth-watering match-ups

Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport. 

May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.

A welcome distraction

Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.

Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.

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