No, Conor McGregor did not die on Saturday night. However, many would say that his run as an elite fighter in the UFC died that night.
After breaking his leg last weekend at UFC 264 in Las Vegas, Conor McGregor not only made some questionable decisions in his choice of words after the fight but also put himself at a crossroads of what comes next. The stats back this up. Conor McGregor has only won one fight since 2016. That last win was against Eddy Alverez where he became the first double champ in the UFC. Since then, he had a 23-month layoff followed by his return to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov, which ended in a submission loss. After that, another 18-month layoff followed, where Conor then fought Donald Cerrone, a UFC legend and a future Hall of Famer. But it was clear it was a warmup fight for McGregor from the start. He eventually dominated Cerrone and earned another first-round finish. That win was followed by another 12-month layoff, where we now reached January 2020 and the rematch between him and Poirier. There’s one similarity throughout that period, layoffs.
Many had already questioned McGregor’s future legacy during the rematch and where a loss would put him at, but the easy response to that is a trilogy fight. Now we’ve entered a completely different spectrum with consecutive losses to the same man. The McGregor that was displayed at UFC 257 was much different than one we had ever seen before. This version of McGregor gave great respect to his opponent and even offered a $500k donation to Poirier’s charity. Even after losing the fight, McGregor stayed positive and said he would be back better than ever. His response was very similar to when he fought Nate Diaz the first time and eventually lost via submission. McGregor was adamant on a rematch. His request was ultimately granted and he won the rematch with Nate Diaz.
Many fans drew back to those two fights and thought a similar result could happen at UFC 264. Conor was adamant about a rematch with Poirier to happen in 2021. The UFC planned this as soon as possible, knowing it was the biggest fight they could put on with one of the biggest superstars in the sport. Many fans also expected Conor to be “not so Mr. Nice Guy” anymore. But that could ultimately be one of the biggest “deaths” to his career, exposing his act.
Conor McGregor’s biggest draw was his bad-boy attitude and vicious knockouts. Not only did he become the first champ-champ in the history of the promotion, but he participated in some of the biggest feuds with other fighters. Nate Diaz, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Jose Aldo are just some of the biggest names, but almost anyone Mcgregor fought, he was engaging in major trash talk. The appeal was that this was who he is and who he always will be. However, McGregor’s “nature” changed at 257 and many thought he had just matured. But when he attempted to go back to the “old Conor,” it wasn’t the same. The attacks didn’t hit as hard and one could honestly say Dustin had better punchlines at the press conferences. But, the fact that Conor even attempted to go back to the “old Conor” diminishes his entire appeal. All the trash talking could just be seen to feed the entertainment rather than serious bad blood.
Fast forward to after the fight, there are arguments for both sides that the injury saved and ended his career. On the one hand, there is now an appeal for fans for when McGregor eventually returns and how he will overcome a massive leg injury, regardless of the opponent. There is also still the argument that McGregor could have won the fight with the proper adjustments. However, the question still stands of how this all will play out. It’s already determined that Poirier will be fighting Charles Oliveira at some point for the lightweight title. Let’s say Poirier wins the belt. How many fights will Conor have to win before he gets his fourth fight against him? How quickly will Conor be able to get those fights and win them? Will he even have an interest in lower-ranked opponents or will he just dodge those bouts and continue asking for a fourth fight against Poirier? These questions make his chase for the belt very skeptical and hard to believe.
So what is next for McGregor? Well, he does have options with the most likely being a trilogy with Nate Diaz. A feud that fans could genuinely buy into despite this strange act Conor recently put on. This is also easily the biggest fight that the promotion could put on for both of these fighters, especially with the stages of their career. The one road bump could be Conor’s requirement to move up to 170 as Diaz has stated multiple times he’s done fighting at 155. Another banger of a fight could be McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson. Two legends that are on losing streaks. This could be a good fight if Conor chose to accept the work needed to earn another title shot. Finally, a wildcard fight that I think would be extremely intriguing is Jorge Masvidal. Two ruthless legends who always cause trouble could set another major money grab for everyone involved in the promotion. And the fans would get a major scrap between two of the best strikers in the sport.
Regardless, Conor’s career has hit a new chapter. He’ll need some serious time to himself to fully focus on the status of his career and what he chooses to do next. He does have options, but any one of them will change his career in a major direction. The Notorious will still live on in infamy for what he has done for this sport. But as legends move through time, their late-career decisions are key for how they will be remembered when they are finally retired from the sport. We could be seeing that time for McGregor come not too far ahead in the future.