UFC 196 rewrote the narrative. Heading in, McGregor had carved a spot for himself as the UFC’s new king. Not just of the featherweight division, but a man who could potentially steer the whole promotion to whatever goals he saw fit. The UFC had, in what almost seemed the blink of an eye, become the Conor McGregor show. Then, on March 5th, almost as quickly the show was over.
Well, not quite over.
McGregor is still almost certainly the UFC’s top drawing star (especially with Jones and Rousey on the sidelines for the undetermined future). But, as their willingness to pull him from UFC 200 over a disagreement on promotional duties showed, the UFC may be a bit less interested in giving their featherweight champion the keys to their metaphorical car. McGregor’s reputation as a near-unstoppable force of willpower, technique, and punching power has been shaken. And with a rematch against Nate Diaz looming, it’s not just his legacy on the line.
McGregor’s head coach, John Kavanagh, made it pretty clear in his column over at The 42, that when UFC 202 comes around, his reputation is at stake as well:
“This is a very important fight for Conor,” Kavanagh writes, “but I also feel that my own reputation as a coach is at stake. This contest can be a bit of a game-changer for us all. Some observers who are obsessed with weight classes and belts don’t see this as a very meaningful fight. They’re more interested in seeing Conor defend his featherweight belt and going after the lightweight strap too.
“But for me, we’re very lucky to be in a position to have an immediate rematch. In most cases, fighters have to be patient in order to get that chance. Having an opportunity to reverse an unfavourable result under the same circumstances just a few months later provides us with a chance to show that ‘Win or Learn’ isn’t just a catchy phrase. It really is something we practice and we have done for a long time.”
There’s a lot more in there than just a statement about coaching legacies, however. Kavanagh makes it pretty clear that he doesn’t see the fight going the distance (even suggesting Nate’s corner will stop it themselves in the 4th). He also goes in-depth about the camp’s new, more regulated focus on game planning and consistency from practice to practice. And he even does a bit of reflecting on that UFC 196 loss. So check the whole thing out.
And then get ready for UFC 202 on August 20th, where McGregor will take his second stab at the welterweight division against Nate Diaz in the PPV main event. Bloody Elbow will have all the news, notes, and live coverage heading into fight night, so stay tuned.