Image source: Conor McGregor Instagram (@thenotoriousmma)
Back in 2013, Conor McGregor made a statement in his UFC debut with a sensational striking display against Marcus Brimmage. The Notorious unleashed a brutal barrage of uppercuts to send Brimmage crashing down to the canvas.
McGregor had officially arrived in the UFC and was beginning to work his way up towards the top of the featherweight division. McGregor comfortably dispatched of formidable opposition during his ascent with wins over the likes of Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway and Chad Mendes.
McGregor’s skills inside the cage were undeniable and it was his left hand that generated all of the attention along the way. A homing beacon like shot that was finding is mark on any chin it was directed towards.
Despite all of the attention on his powerful left hand, the more impressive attributes were his mindset and determination. McGregor was witty and clever and easily got into the head of his opponents which clearly had them rattled before the bout ever even started, however, it was his ice-cold approach to the fight business that was intriguing.
During his impressive run in the UFC from 2013 to 2016 we saw a McGregor that could not be phased. He would often state that he is obsessed with the fight game and it really did show. McGregor could not be rattled, he did not care about who was in front of him, it was just another body to review, analyse, prepare for and destroy. This culminated in the brutal destruction of multiple organisation world champion, Eddie Alvarez, to become the first double champion in UFC history; that was peak McGregor.
McGregor began to get away from that ice-cold, ruthless approach and appear to become much more emotionally invested into the press conferences and the bouts. The accusations in the press appeared to affect him, the trash talk was no longer witty and fun but more spiteful and vicious. McGregor had gotten away from his best asset that took him to the top of the toughest sport in the world.
However, The Irish superstar might just be back to his old self; or even better than his old self if you ask him.
McGregor recently opened up in an interview with Ariel Helwani and admitted that the twisted words in the media got to him at times and he often reacted to the disrespect shown from other fighters, fans and the MMA community in general.
“I can’t focus too much on the external. Okay it’s great, it’s all positive right now, everything is going great and everyone is saying ‘it’s this and it’s that’ but I just must focus on my internal and my internal is amazing. My thoughts are strong, my belief is high, my confidence is high and that’s it. I feel like I’m… I want to say back to who I was but I’m even better than who I was. Everyone says we miss the old Conor, or the 2016 Conor, or the 2015 Conor, or whatever is was, but I feel I’m better than that now. I feel I’m mature, I’ve come full circle, I’ve experienced everything in this business.”
McGregor was queried on some tough subjects by Helwani regarding the recent rape allegations as well as the other issues McGregor has been involved in, but he maintains that he is completely focused now and is ignoring all external factors.
Justin Gaethje also came up in the conversation and, although Gaethje has been very deep with some of his comments, The Notorious insists that it’s not personal for him.
“You’re not going to be able to make it personal with me. Certainly not now. I’ve gone to brink of personal fucking attacks. I am bulletproof, you’re not going to do that, that’s nothing.”
McGregor already has a plan for after the Donald Cerrone fight to ensure he stays inside of the gym and maintains his obsession with the fight business and continues to be active.
“If I go in there and put Donald away in a couple of seconds, which very well could happen, I could probably do the next event. That’s the type of mindset I’m at. After the fight I’m not going to sink in with this buzz because you can get caught up in it. You get the win and then you’re great then and all this type of stuff.
I’ve got an after-party set, I’m going to go out and have a few sips of my Proper whiskey. I’ve abstained from that, I made a promise to myself, I made a promise to my team, I made a promise to my fans that I would stay 100% fully focused so I’ve abstained from that and I do miss it. I love my liquid! I’ll have a few little sips at my after party, I’ll take the following day to rest and then the day after that I will engage in a red zone McGregor Fast training session, like I done post Diaz 2.”
Even discussing the potential rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, McGregor showed a much more cerebral approach to the conversation. Not focusing much on the personal war of words but opting to discuss more about the skillset and the stylistic matchup.
McGregor admitted he had a “venom” inside of him leading up to the first bout with Khabib even saying he would call Russian fighters into the gym to have a full-blown fight and he would knock them out and go and celebrate by drinking.
“I just had this venom in me or something, I don’t know why. I had people holed up in a hotel from that part of the world and I would ring and arrange a fight. So, they would come from the hotel down to the gym and have a full-blow fight, no head guard, a fight. I’d win, we’d have a war and I’d win, knock the guy out and then I’d go off and celebrate and then I’d come back in three days.”
The biggest takeaway from the interview is that McGregor is definitely in a different mindset, more relaxed, calmer and more focused. Whether this translates to the emphatic performances we saw back in his early UFC career remains to be seen but the motivated, re-invigorated and obsessed Conor McGregor is back in the fight game.