Conor McGregor (pictured) and his entire team have been cooped up in the “Mac Mansion” in Las Vegas for several months getting ready to dethrone reigning UFC featherweight king Jose Aldo. So after it was announced 11 days before showtime that Aldo was officially out of their shootout with a broken rib, it’s understandable that McGregor still wanted to unleash the beast at UFC 189.
Throw in a bitter rival in Chad Mendes for an interim featherweight title and there’s no possible way McGregor was saying no.
The only problem is, it’s a lose-lose situation for McGregor.
If McGregor wins, which the sports books currently believe he will by pegging him a -170 odds-on favorite to beat Mendes (+140), he’s supposed to because Mendes wasn’t preparing for a five round affair having accepted the scrap at the 11th hour.
If McGregor loses – “God forbid,” reads UFC president Dana White’s thought bubble – then “Notorious” was just defeated by a man who was granted a fraction of the full training camp that he enjoyed. Furthermore, despite the UFC’s best efforts to pit McGregor against standup-intensive fighters to protect their golden boy, here he is losing to the first true wrestler he’s faced in the UFC.
McGregor’s detractors have cried all along that wresting was his kryptonite, and Mendes was the perfect Lex Luther to jam it down his throat.
Despite Aldo being the only featherweight champion the UFC has ever know, many pundits believe Mendes is a far worse matchup for McGregor given his strong wrestling pedigree. Sure, Aldo owns a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, but he’s only submitted two people in his MMA career, with his most recent tap out coming exactly a decade ago.
Aldo is a standup assassin, using BJJ more as a defense than anything, and that style is right up McGregor’s ally.
But if McGregor lost to Aldo, there’s no shame in that because everyone loses to Aldo. He owns a 25-1 record and has posted nine straight title defenses (two in the WEC before Zuffa promoted him to the UFC) and is one of only a few current UFC fighters that can legitimately use the word LEGACY when discussing their career.
However, if he loses to Mendes – “Oh, dear Lord no!” reads White’s second thought bubble – the McGregor mystique disappears faster than it appeared. Though Mendes’ standup has improved drastically over the past couple of years, he will win by planting McGregor on his back. It will be the blueprint future opponents will execute against the chatty Irishman going forward.
It can be argued the UFC has never hyped another fighter like they have McGregor. They helped him score an individual endorsement deal with Reebok long before their partnership with the UFC kicked in – something many current UFC champs still don’t have.
McGregor has a lot to lose come Saturday. In fact, this is about as lose-lose as they come. He just better not lose, because the UFC is in desperate need of stars and they have all hopped aboard McGregor’s bandwagon.