Over the years, the UFC’s brass have had their favorites, but they’ve taken things to a completely new level with Conor “Notorious” McGregor (14-2-0, 12 KOs).
That has been evident ever since the Irishman walked right through Marcus Brimage at UFC on Fuel TV 9, winning via TKO 67 seconds into his promotional debut.
From joy rides in UFC president Dana White’s Ferrari to the “Blackout” treatment, which is typically reserved for main event combatants fighting out of the red corner, he received during his walk to the cage at UFC on Fox Sports: Shogun vs. Sonnen, it couldn’t be any clearer that the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s brass expects big things from McGregor.
Did McGregor meet those expectations at UFC on Fox Sports 1: Shogun vs. Sonnen?
Not really. But it’s virtually impossible for anyone to live up to such lofty expectations.
Given all the effort the UFC put into pushing Conor heading into UFC on Fox Sports 1, many were expecting a Kimbo-esque performance (early days, of course) that ended with his opponent, Max Holloway, staring blankly at Octagon-side officials trying to revive him.
That sentiment wasn’t lost on McGregor.
“It feels like a loss to me, to be honest,” McGregor said during the post-fight press conference. “I wanted to finish him. I felt the finish was there for me. I injured my knee midway through the second, and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. But looking back, I should have just pulled my knee from my leg and hit him with it. … I don’t come here for decisions. We are rewarded for finishes, and that’s what I’m looking for. I am a finisher … I planned on stealing the show, and it didn’t happen for me. Right now, it feels like I’m dealing with a loss at the minute.”
Offensively, Conor looked incredible during his three-rounder against Holloway, showing a diverse arsenal of highly accurate strikes and solid grappling skills, but I wouldn’t go as far as to call him the second coming of Bruce Lee.
Keeping his head straight up with almost no head movement, dropping his hands too low, and a tendency to be over-aggressive at times were some of the flaws that were evident in McGregor’s game. Flaws seasoned featherweights will be able to exploit.
Fortunately, for McGregor, the UFC’s brass seems to be highly invested in him, which means he won’t be thrown to sharks like Frankie Edgar or Cub Swanson anytime soon. At only 25 years old, and clearly dedicated to his profession as a mixed martial artist, McGregor will only get better with time, so he might actually be as good as the hype suggests someday.
He isn’t there yet, though.