Cast your mind back to when Conor McGregor was defeated by Nate Diaz via Rear Naked Choke in the second round of their first encounter at UFC 196.
The doubters had their day in the Vegas sunshine. Finally, the moment had arrived.
With joy in their hearts, they were free to ridicule and pick apart McGregor in defeat.
They targeted his cardio, grappling, and even his heart and desire in the fight. When the going gets tough, they said, McGregor quits. After all, he’d just succumbed to a blurred-around-the-edges, just-off-a-party-yacht Nate Diaz.
He tapped, and who taps but a quitter?
This was even a part of Mayweather’s verbal jabs at McGregor during the press tour.
McGregor could have gone back down to featherweight and defended his belt, which most pundits and fans thought was the plan.
The Irishman had a different idea, and five months later, at the same weight class (welterweight, 170), he stood across the Octagon from Nate Diaz once again.
The doubters were once again ready to write him off with another defeat. What kind of champion holds a belt while on a two fight losing streak? The cynics had their ammunition at the ready.
McGregor is known for his incredible work ethic; his upbringing in Crumlin would have it no other way. He’s obsessed, and has dedicated his whole life to get to this level in the sport. He wanted nothing more than his re-match, to avenge the defeat and silence any doubters.
used to say i "lived" on crumlin road for seven years but maybe i have to start saying i "survived" https://t.co/QAPcuONwY5
— Ken Early (@kenearlys) August 7, 2017
This opportunity arrived at UFC 202, in one of the fights of the year. McGregor hurt and dropped Diaz throughout, but tasted adversity too, showing great heart.
At one stage, fans of the Irishman feared a repeat of the first contest, but a second or third wind arrived, allowing Conor to finish the fight strong. Bruce Buffer calling his name as winner via majority decision was his reward for all his toil.
Just under three months later, history was about to be made with what was perhaps McGregor’s best performance in the Octagon. He dispatched Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez with an almost perfect display and became the first UFC champion to hold two different titles in two weight classes simultaneously.
So why do we still doubt him now?
Yes, he is fighting one of the greatest boxers of our time, if not all time. At 49-0 Floyd Mayweather has done it all and beat them all.
Boxing experts will tell you the fight is a joke, a circus. They’ll dismiss McGregor as a joke. Mayweather has fought fast, strong, athletic and hard hitters with better boxing than Conor before and they couldn’t land a glove on him.
Everyone in the gym was doing their best Conor McGregor impression today, I think I won. Let's hope his fight v Mayweather is entertaining🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/1uvFrYaviL
— David Haye (@mrdavidhaye) August 15, 2017
So what chance does this Mixed Martial Artist have?
In many ways, they are right. But one other thing McGregor doesn’t have that all previous opponents had, is fear.
“I don’t fear him, I don’t fear this limited set of fighting – this is a limited set of rules,” McGregor said.
“That makes this half a fight. A quarter of a fight. This isn’t a true fight. If this was a true fight, it wouldn’t even take one round.”
Floyd has never faced anyone with McGregor’s style. He can’t train for it, he can’t mimic it, and in a way he cannot plan for it. Perhaps Mayweather’s camp should also heed the advice of Chris Eubank, who, after losing to Hibernian legend Steve Collins, should know about facing a confident Irishman.
“What everyone who knows about boxing is missing, what they’re not thinking about, what is so obvious, everyone is forgetting that he is an Irishman.
“I’m not talking about Conor McGregor, I’m not talking about an MMA fighter, I’m talking about an Irishman. An Irishman is always to be respected.”
The first time he’ll be introduced to this is when the bell rings and the roar of the Irish following assaults him. Many experts expect the MMA fighter to sprint across the ring to engage with Mayweather, as he needs to get it done early, before Mayweather figures him out.
However in McGregor’s last outing against Alvarez, he showed he can also be patient, with incredible shot-selection and superb reading of his opponents. Expect to see Conor set traps, to play the novice in there but all the time downloading tells that Mayweather is giving him.
McGregor is not going to fight in a traditional boxing style but more an evolution of his MMA style. The clinch could be a big part of this fight, something that Conor could use to his advantage.
Doubt him if you dare but remember:
“ONE KING GETS OLD, THEN A YOUNG GORILLA COMES UP AND KILLS HIM, AND TAKES EVERYTHING HE OWNS.”