This weekend, Tony Ferguson is taking on Kevin Lee for a shot at the UFC interim lightweight title in one of the best fights of the year. However, as with all things in MMA, the shadow of actual lightweight champion Conor McGregor looms large over the affair. The winner of the main event this weekend should ostensibly get the opportunity to challenge for the real title, and McGregor has suggested he’s open to the idea but he has also laid out numerous other possibilities for his next fight, with his coach preferring a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz. It’s a bevy of options heretofore unseen in MMA, created by the overwhelming appeal of the biggest star in the sport. And according to some, it’s unlikely to ever be duplicated.
Speaking recently on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, UFC commentator Joe Rogan addressed the singular greatness of Conor McGregor, discussing what it is about the Irish fighter that has catapulted him to superstardom and why there will never be another like him.
“You’re never gonna see another one like him because he’s a unique person. He’s literally being himself. You’re gonna see a bunch of people try to mimic that and in a sense, he sort of mimicked the people who came before him, like the Chael Sonnens and the Muhammad Alis and the people that were really good at talking s**t. The difference is, what Conor’s been able to do is he’s the first guy in the UFC that’s been able to do that, that’s had spectacular results, and also showed his real character in losing and then coming back and winning very quickly afterwards against the same guy – the Nate Diaz fight. That was a very important character exposing fight because he lost a fight, he got humbled, and then he jumped right back on the horse and then wound up winning. Then he comes back and blows Eddie Alvarez out of the water to become the first two-division, concurrent champion in the sport.”
It is inarguable at this point that McGregor is the biggest star MMA has ever seen. His recent boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. sold over 4 million pay-per-view buys. McGregor lost that bout by 10th-round stoppage, but according to Rogan, that’s just proof positive of how “extraordinary” the lightweight champion is.
“I think he’s a unique guy in a very – it’s almost like we don’t have a word strong enough [to describe him]. Unique isn’t a strong enough word. . . He’s got brilliant ability. He’s incredibly smart. He’s very innovative in his techniques and his approaches and I think he has phenomenal coaching as well.
“He’s a combination of a lot of things. He has a brilliant team. John Kavanagh, his coach, is a brilliant coach. He’s got amazing jiu-jitsu coaching and striking coaching and his mind, he understands how to apply these things. His ability to perform under pressure is fantastic. You saw that in the Mayweather fight. Even though he lost that fight, he hit Mayweather with some pretty good shots and he won the first three rounds against the greatest boxer of all-time. That’s extraordinary.
“Conor’s an extraordinary person. He has greatness.”
That greatness has been the catalyst for the most meteoric rise in combat sports history. McGregor made his UFC debut only four years ago, knocking out Marcus Brimage in 67 seconds and shouting “Dana, 60 Gs, baby!” during his post-fight interview. Now, any fight he is in is certain to clear at least 1 million pay-per-view buys. But even that might be underselling McGregor these days. According to Rogan, after the Mayweather bout, any McGregor fight is going to be the biggest fight in UFC history, because McGregor is the most popular fighter in the world now.
“I don’t think it hurts his stock in any way. I think it elevates him. His next fight in the UFC, whoever it will be, will be probably the biggest fight in UFC history, especially if it’s Nate Diaz because Nate Diaz is a huge name. If Nate Diaz and him decide to do it one more time I think that will be the biggest fight ever in the history of the sport because I think Conor has eclipsed the sport, largely.
“He’s the biggest combat sport athlete not just of today, but ever. There’s no one like him. “
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