Raise a glass to Conor McGregor – Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t last five minutes in the UFC octagon

Fight fans got the expected outcome in Las Vegas but UFC icon McGregor silenced the doubters with his performance and deserves respect

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 August, 2017, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 1:42am

This time last year, there was another circus surrounding a high-profile clash of combat sports styles.

Lifelong professional wrestler Phil “CM Punk” Brooks made his long-awaited debut in mixed martial arts, taking on Mickey Gall at UFC 203 in Cleveland on September 10, 2016.

Yes, we know professional wrestling is fake. But Brooks is a ju-jitsu black belt and trained MMA extensively for a year and a half before his fight.

Still, the former WWE champion was still thoroughly embarrassed, landing zeros across the board on all fight statistics as young gun Gall submitted him in two minutes and 14 seconds of the first round by rear-naked choke.

It was a clear-cut demonstration that just because you have spent your life in and around combat sports, it doesn’t always translate when you swap one for another.

So consider Conor McGregor’s valiant 10th-round defeat by Floyd Mayweather a resounding success.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship star wasn’t given a puncher’s chance by most going into his much-hyped boxing bout against its pound-for-pound king.

Understandable, given Mayweather calls himself “The Best Ever” and has the newly updated 50-0 record to back it up.

The judges had Mayweather well ahead before he scored a technical knockout, with two of them only giving McGregor one round through the first nine.

This was in stark contrast to how seasoned MMA experts on social media had the fight scored going into round 10, with some even giving McGregor a slight edge after a strong early showing.

It just goes to show what McGregor was up against in taking such a bold step into the unknown.

The tirade of negative coverage towards him was astounding – this was a man who has made history in mixed martial arts, becoming the first competitor to hold championships in two weight divisions simultaneously, while wiping the floor with his competition.

Striking is a huge part of MMA, and most of McGregor’s resounding victories during his 21-3 career have come standing up, delivering savage knockout blows before moving in for the finish.

Following his defeat by Mayweather in Las Vegas, McGregor took aim at those who said who wouldn’t even land a punch.

“I’m a multiple weight freestyle world champion and I was a little bit surprised at the disrespect I was shown,” he said.

“The disrespect for my skill set took me back a little bit. But this was some buzz, to come in and face this man. There were so many doubters and people saying that it was never even going to happen.

“I just enjoyed the experience. And it was an honour to come over into the boxing ring and showcase my skills.”

Fair play to him. He took a risk stepping in with a four-weight world champion boxer widely regarded as the greatest in history.

What other combat competitor – be it boxing or MMA – could have coaxed Mayweather out of retirement for one more fight?

McGregor has the star appeal as a showman who can attract celebrity interest and casual fans (and get them to open their wallets) while almost always backing up his big mouth. There’s a reason he calls himself “Mystic Mac” – his fight predictions usually come true.

It was perhaps a little optimistic to believe he could knock Mayweather out in two rounds, as he boldly claimed he would in the heated build-up to this fight.

But few fighters could make you believe they even had a small chance of doing that. For a moment, McGregor had his legion of fans dreaming the impossible.

The 29-year-old did not disgrace himself – far from it. If anything, he gave Mayweather a sterner challenge than his any of his last five opponents and also shone a positive light on the merits of mixed martial arts.

The UFC and other less-heralded MMA promotions have been derided for years as nothing but a blood sport. But McGregor showcased he is a fighter who could stand and trade for 28 minutes with a boxing god.

It is unfair to say he was just there to pick up a pay cheque close to US$100 million. You wouldn’t see Mayweather step into the UFC octagon for US$100 billion.

McGregor played by someone else’s rules, and made a good show of it. The memes will be thrown at him on social media every time he tweets or opens his mouth, showing the referee waving his arms and deeming him unable to continue.

But just remember that Mayweather would be lucky to last two minutes in a mixed martial arts fight. Striking is just one facet of many that McGregor has had to master in his career, so it is no surprise he gassed out. He has never gone longer than 25 minutes in a UFC bout.

“It’s fatigue,” McGregor said in his post-fight interview. “That’s why I thought the ref could’ve just let it keep going. Let me go down, let the man put me down. Wobbly and fatigued, that’s energy, that’s not damage. I’m clear-headed.”

Thankfully, the referee didn’t give Floyd the chance to floor the Irishman, a visual image that could have been a huge setback to his career. McGregor went out on his feet and can hold his head high as he resumes his dominance of his true calling, MMA.