Biggest Breakthrough Performances from UFC Champions

Just because you become a UFC champion doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get love and attention.
Time and again, it’s been proved that there is a certain blend of results, charisma and good old-fashioned elbow grease required to turn a mixed martial ar…

Just because you become a UFC champion doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get love and attention.

Time and again, it’s been proved that there is a certain blend of results, charisma and good old-fashioned elbow grease required to turn a mixed martial artist into a bona fide star, and holding a world title may not even enter into the equation.

There have, in fact, been many instances where UFC champions broke through after winning a title or even after holding on to it for a while.

They’ll be unknown or underappreciated and then bam!—a stunning KO or fight of the year, and everyone knows who they are.

Here are five such times a UFC champ enjoyed a breakthrough performance.

     

5. Daniel Cormier Stops Volkan Oezdemir, UFC 220

It remains to be seen just how big of a breakthrough Daniel Cormier’s performance at UFC 220 will be, but there’s no question that it looks massive in the immediate aftermath of the event.

It was the first time the light heavyweight champion seemed to get his due with fans, an unusual and refreshing occasion on which questions about Jon Jones weren’t always the first ones he had to answer on fight week.

In the bout itself, Cormier demolished Oezdemir, throwing strikes with incredible ruthlessness and conviction before identifying the skill discrepancy between them on the ground and taking the fight there to finish it. It was a borderline flawless performance, buoyed in its entirety by the fans in the stadium screaming for him the entire time.

And in the aftermath? Cormier was offered a fight with heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, to which he quickly agreed. The two will meet at UFC 226 in July.

It was the culmination of a career built on hard work, and if UFC 220 is taken as evidence, it’s a culmination that came out of the breakthrough that happened there.

     

4. Demetrious Johnson Taps Ray Borg with Ridiculous Armbar, UFC 216

The build of Demetrious Johnson has been slow and often painful. While the UFC gave him opportunities on network television and at the top of pay-per-views, fans simply were not interested in watching one of the best ever ply his trade.

He was frustrated, bickering with UFC President Dana White and offering befuddlement at the situation more broadly, but it remained somewhat of a hopeless endeavor to get him noticed.

Until it wasn’t.

Somewhere over the months of hopelessness, indifference was slowly replaced with appreciation. Silence turned to cheers when Johnson would show up at live events, people began to acknowledge his excellence in lording over the flyweight class and even his Twitch stream became a topic of discussion.

Riding that wave of momentum, Johnson headed to UFC 216 to defend his title against Ray Borg. Borg, for all his gameness, was no match for the champion, and by the fifth round, it was obvious a win was in the bag for Mighty Mouse.

Instead of riding the remaining time to a decision, though, Johnson, standing with back control, gut-wrenched Borg into the air, caught him in an armbar position while he was there and finished the submission when he hit the ground.

It was about as outrageous a finish as you’ll ever see in MMA, and it was also the type of shareable, GIF-able, unavoidable act that turns a man into a star overnight.

Johnson looks like he’ll now parlay that into a champion versus champion bout against 135-pound kingpin TJ Dillashaw this summer, a showcase that will only raise his newfound profile further.

     

3. Chuck Liddell Knocks Out Randy Couture, UFC 57

For modern UFC fans, it’s a given that Chuck Liddell is a UFC icon. He had the haircut, the modernized Fu Manchu mustache, the tattoos and the results to warrant such a status.

But there was a time when his legend was not so apparent, when his place in the sport was not so guaranteed.

Despite his friendship with UFC ownership and a good run in the promotion throughout the early 2000s, it wasn’t until he threw down with Randy Couture that he really became a big name. His drawn-out feud with Tito Ortiz, and the subsequent beating he laid in the fight, got the attention of hardcore fans, but it was Couture that launched him to stardom.

Couture stopped Liddell in their first meeting in 2003, winning the interim light heavyweight title in the process. Liddell returned the favor in 2005, winning by knockout. UFC 57 was their trilogy bout, one that sold 400,000 pay-per-views and cleared $3 million at the gate, per Wrestling Observer Newsletter‘s Dave Meltzer and MMAPayout.com, massive numbers for the promotion at the time.

Liddell won by knockout again, and from there he was on his way to superstardom. His next fight sold 500,000 units on pay-per-view, and the one after that, a rematch with Ortiz, was the first fight in UFC history to clear one million buys.

It was the third Couture bout that served as the springboard to it all.

     

2. Anderson Silva Front-Kicks Vitor Belfort, UFC 126

It’s hard to imagine there was a time when Anderson Silva wasn’t a superstar. Even now, with some pretty curious performance-enhancing-drug occurrences floating around his name these days, there’s no denying his place in the record books or the incredible things he’s done in the sport.

He even says, going on 43-years-old and facing down a potential suspension, that he’s not done fighting.

But not that long ago, he was having a hard time getting anyone to pay attention to what he was saying. Despite his explosive, jaw-dropping record of domination, people were simply not that engaged with the enigmatic Brazilian.

Then came Super Bowl weekend in 2011, where he headlined UFC 126 against Brazilian icon Vitor Belfort. At that time it was Belfort who was the hero in his country, and he went hard at Silva in the leadup to their meeting in the cage.

It led to the type of tension that had largely been absent in Silva’s career, save for his memorable first bout with Chael Sonnen, which had happened months earlier. Silva won that fight with a Hail Mary submission in the fifth round, and against Belfort, he turned up the drama again—albeit differently, more swiftly.

After three intense minutes of feeling out interspersed with short explosions of offense, Silva and Belfort came to the center of the cage. A slight shoulder feint to get into range and then, almost totally out of nowhere and for the first time in UFC history, Silva landed a front kick flush on the chin of his opponent.

Belfort crumbled and Silva followed up with a couple of shots on the ground, but it was academic at that point.

It was the kick heard ’round the world, and it catapulted Silva into global recognition.

     

1. Conor McGregor Uses Boxing to Become a Global Force, Mayweather vs. McGregor

There’s a real case to be made that the biggest example of a UFC champion having a breakthrough performance didn’t even come in the UFC. It didn’t even come in MMA. In fact, as of today, the sitting champion who broke through might not even be an active mixed martial artist.

For better or worse, who other than Conor McGregor could create such a situation?

McGregor’s path is lore at this point: Blazed his way to the UFC featherweight title, never defended it and was eventually stripped; won the lightweight title in his UFC debut at the weight, never defended it and may or may not have been stripped.

The biggest sticking point in his lightweight run was a boxing match against all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr. Without a pro boxing match on his resume, McGregor agreed to box the then-retired Mayweather in the summer of 2017, a bout Mayweather won to move to 50-0 in his career.

However, even in defeat, McGregor’s name became bigger than ever. He went from the biggest star in MMA to one of the biggest stars in professional sports, and he went from a professional athlete to a full-on brand.

Sure, there have been some snaps of him back in the gym more recently, but much of his time since Mayweather has been spent living the high life with celebrities and designers, hawking whiskey, riding in private jets and doing anything but fighting.

And people are paying attention.

He has over 20 million followers on Instagram, apparently cleared $100 million for his work against Mayweather, had a movie made about him and might very well never take a UFC fight again.

It’s amazing to think, but the biggest breakthrough by a UFC champion that the sport has seen might have broken him so far through that the sport will never see him again.

     

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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Daniel Cormier Returns to Heavyweight to Cement His Legacy of Greatness

If you didn’t think Daniel Cormier was over with the fans after UFC 220, you best believe he will be now.
In a bombshell early Friday evening, the UFC announced Cormier would jump up in weight to fight reigning heavyweight king Stipe Miocic at UF…

If you didn’t think Daniel Cormier was over with the fans after UFC 220, you best believe he will be now.

In a bombshell early Friday evening, the UFC announced Cormier would jump up in weight to fight reigning heavyweight king Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 in July.            

Miocic demolished the highly-touted Francis Ngannou to retain his title, also at UFC 220, and it took a mere six days for he and Cormier to decide they wanted to know who was better among them.

Beyond shaking the sport to its core, the fight is a chance for Cormier to finish repurposing a legacy that has enjoyed a late-life makeover in the past year.

He lost his light heavyweight title to Jon Jones last summer at UFC 214 in a fight where he was cast as an unlikely villain.

After being badly stopped by Jones, he delivered a memorable soliloquy in the cage through tears. It humanized him.

Jones then famously failed his second drug test in three fights and Cormier was given his title back. It only made him hungrier.

He continued appearing on UFC broadcasts and doing an increasingly good job as an analyst, color commentator and interviewer.

It all culminated in the UFC 220 performance, where he swaggered through challenger Volkan Oezdemir as the Boston faithful lapped it up. The arena itself shook with chants of “DC! DC! DC!” as he pounded his way to another world title win—his third defence, or first, depending on your perception of the Jones saga.

At 38-years-old and in his 22nd professional bout, Cormier had arrived. And now, less than a week later, he is rolling that momentum into the biggest test of his sporting life.

Bigger than the Olympics.

Bigger than Jones.

Bigger than anything.

By taking on Miocic so willingly, taking him on after years of saying heavyweight was for his teammate Cain Velasquez to own, taking him on so soon after he put an official expiration date on his career, Cormier is sending a message.

This is about his legacy now, and that legacy will be one of greatness or bust.

It will not be about his trials and tribulations, Jones or whatever anyone else comes up with. It will be about his decisions and on his terms.

That’s admirable in a way not much in MMA is admirable anymore.

Where many in the sport are obsessed with Twitter beefs, Instagramming private jets and the elusive “money fight,” Cormier is obsessed with making people remember his name for competitive glories.

And who better to do it against than Miocic?

The only man in Boston to come close to getting the welcome Cormier did was the Clevelander, a part-time firefighter who blends blue collar and black-and-blue in a way no one else before him has. He is the epitome of hard work paying off, work done by keeping his chin down and letting his actions do the talking.

The closest he’s ever gotten to showing people what he really thinks of a situation was snatching his title belt from Dana White after he dispatched Ngannou so that his coach could crown him, which he later insisted was only a matter of respect.

It’s probably not any wonder that “stoic” is hidden in the man’s name.

Now he’ll serve as the perfect foil to Cormier as he attempts to prove that he’s the baddest man on the planet.

The stakes for Miocic are very real as well: A win and he’ll defend the heavyweight title an unprecedented fourth time over a former Olympian and Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner. One who, it bares reminding, was 13-0 as a heavyweight before dropping to 205-pounds and becoming a champion there.

Beating Cormier makes him a legend if he isn’t already, a laid back Midwestern boy done good in the world of professional fisticuffs.

The leadup will surely be about respect and honor, the fight about skill and will.

No press conference dust-ups.

No failed drug tests.

No being handed a belt even though you lost.

It’s the opportunity Cormier has dreamt of for years, even when he didn’t realize it.

Champion versus champion, the apex of the sport in a fight for a legacy he never could have imagined would look this way after the things he’s been through, the epitome of “anyone, anytime, any place.” 

A belt over each shoulder and a ride off into the sunset, undeniable as one of the best to ever do it.

Who wouldn’t want that?

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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UFC 220 Expert Roundtable: Stipe Miocic Dominates Francis Ngannou to Stay Champ

UFC 220 is in the books, and the most hotly anticipated heavyweight title fight in a number of years is in the books with it.
The end result: Stipe Miocic is still your UFC heavyweight champion.
It was a result few predicted going into the event, with …

UFC 220 is in the books, and the most hotly anticipated heavyweight title fight in a number of years is in the books with it.

The end result: Stipe Miocic is still your UFC heavyweight champion.

It was a result few predicted going into the event, with Miocic showing up in Boston as an underdog bent on destruction. He eventually came out on top, and he did so in surprisingly dominant fashion.

For five rounds, Miocic mugged Francis Ngannou—who was gassed by the end of the first round—dragging him to the mat repeatedly and holding him there for minutes at a time.

In the leadup to the bout, Bleacher Report Lead MMA Writers Chad Dundas and Scott Harris each provided the sport with the definitive profiles of the combatants.

Now, along with Featured Columnist Matthew Ryder, who sat cageside for the festivities, they break down what they saw and felt as they watched the men they knew so well battle for the sport’s biggest prize.

Matthew Ryder: There remained a haze in the air at TD Garden, an almost literal fog of war sitting heavy at the end of UFC 220. In one way or another, we were all pretty sure we wouldn’t know what to make once Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou were done their cage time, and that was the case.

Miocic defused the Cameroonian bomb with surprising aplomb—at no point did it appear he was in any particular trouble, save for a few solid shots that stiffened him up early in the fight.

Seeing as Miocic won and you wrote so expertly on his path to the title fight we watched this weekend, I’ll pass it to you first, Scott.

What did you see out there?

Scott Harris: I saw a guy who executed a game plan. You know what they say about plans, and what tends to happen to them after you absorb some facial trauma. That’s a cliche for a reason, and Miocic defied it.

He seemed to let Ngannou do his thing in the first round, standing with him for extended periods, mixing in takedowns, playing matador to allow Ngannou to dump his adrenaline (and landing some sharp combinations of his own in the process).

Miocic knew full well Ngannou had never been beyond the second round, and he began to pile up takedowns and top control until Ngannou was exhausted enough that his legs went rubbery. In the later rounds, the riding time in the clinch and on the ground seemed almost as torturous as any rain of knees or elbows.

It reminded me of something Miocic’s coach, Marcus Marinelli, told me when I spent some time with Miocic and his camp last fall. He told me what a good listener Miocic is, that “he only needs to be told something once.”

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, when Miocic learns something, it stays learned. That was evident in every movement of Saturday’s masterclass.

Ryder: I’m inclined to agree. There was a studied, deliberate intent to the champ early in the bout, where he was evasive and just offensive enough to keep Ngannou honest, casually checking the clock throughout.

As the fight wore on and also out of Ngannou, Miocic only doubled down on his focus and commitment to the plan. It was predictable going in, but it was that much more obvious as you saw it in his eyes and on his face, and saw how effective it was as he began to pull away.

How about you, Chad? What were you thinking as the fight unfolded, in light of your perspective on the challenger?

Chad Dundas: For Francis Ngannou, it was a worst-case scenario in terms of answering our many questions about his skill set.

For example: Could Ngannou land a big shot early to keep Miocic from dragging him into deep water? No.

Did he possess the defensive wrestling to keep the champ from taking him down? No.

If Miocic dragged him to the mat, could Ngannou get back up? No.

Would he be prepared to fight five five-minute rounds if he had to do it? Nah, son.

The lopsided result here highlighted some factors about Ngannou’s training camp that had me scratching my head while visiting him in Las Vegas before his fight against Alistair Overeem in early December. 

First, while Ngannou trains at the new, state-of-the-art UFC Performance Institute—a fact lauded on the UFC 220 broadcast—his longtime coach, Fernand Lopez, still lives in France. So most of the camp is done with Lopez monitoring things from afar. The coach arrives in America in the last couple weeks to put the finishing touches on a game plan, but mostly Ngannou and his UFCPI trainers are on their own.

At least that’s how it worked for Overeem. If indeed they repeated that methodology for Miocic, I can’t help but wonder: Is it the best way? Ngannou certainly didn’t look well prepared for his first UFC championship opportunity.

Second, during our time together Ngannou seemed—if not disdainful, exactly—somewhat dismissive of the grappling arts in general. He obviously prefers to strike and has been very successful at it, but I walked away from our interview wondering exactly what he was doing to shore up his ground game. Against Miocic, it was clear that area still needs a ton of work.

It’s not that unusual for a dominant heavyweight—a guy who is the roughest, toughest person in his own workout room—to fail to address his shortcomings until they are painfully pointed out to him inside the Octagon in front of thousands of people.

I think that’s the case here with Ngannou. The biggest questions about him now will be what he does moving forward to address his flaws, because he can still be a terrifying force in the Octagon.

Ryder: It’s something of an amusing twist of fate, this notion that both Miocic and Ngannou executed the game plans they envisioned, but they found such different paths to the judge’s scorecards at the end of the night.

In the same way, you could see it in Miocic as he was having success with his, you could see the befuddlement in Ngannou that he could not, in fact, simply punch a hole in his opponent’s face and collect a cheque this time.

Any takers on the parallels of these two men in their career trajectories, and where they might be going from here? Let’s not forget that Miocic wasn’t flawless on his way to where he is today, and Ngannou isn’t the first massively hyped guy we’ve seen lose in his first try at a title.

Dundas: Moving forward, Ngannou’s saving graces might be his relative youth and the perennially shallow nature of the heavyweight division. He’ll obviously go on being a marketable figure in a weight class that sorely needs them. So long as he posses that terrifying one-punch-knockout power, people are going to want to watch him.

For example, if the UFC somehow managed to make his next fight against Brock Lesnar, I don’t think many people would turn their noses up at it. In fact, the loss to Miocic might even make a fantasy Ngannou-Lesnar fight seem more interesting, since people might be more apt to give Brock a chance after seeing Ngannou’s many flaws exploited by the champion.

So, I think Ngannou can go on being a major player in the 265-pound class as long as he wants. If he carries on, he’ll likely end up getting more than one shot to win UFC gold.

Here’s one thing that gives me pause, though: This guy’s first love is clearly boxing. He grew up in Cameroon idolizing Mike Tyson and his MMA style is almost solely reliant on his stand-up game. He transitioned to MMA early on only because his coaches told him he’d have an easier time breaking into the sport as a complete unknown.

I can’t help but worry a little that Ngannou’s love of boxing will ultimately win the day. Will he really have the desire to do the work necessary to close the holes in his MMA game? Or at some point will he decide he had it right in the first place: that this wrestling stuff is for the birds and he wants to make a go of it in the sweet science?

With Dana White talking about getting into boxing promotion, the opportunity may soon be there for Ngannou to chase his original dream. After a loss like the one he had against Miocic, I wonder if that’s going to start sounding pretty attractive to one of the hardest punchers on the planet.

Harris: There are plenty of great examples of fighters needing a loss in order to improve or optimize themselves. As you said, Miocic is such an example, taking great strides forward after losses to Stefan Struve and Junior dos Santos. He’s not the champ without those experiences.

As for what’s next, I can practically hear Miocic’s response. “Whatever.” Give him a fair wage and tell him where to sign. Cain Velasquez? Daniel Cormier? Brock Lesnar? Whatever.

A rematch with Ngannou, someday, would make sense, too. Ngannou looked helpless in Miocic’s side control Saturday, so his need to get better should be obvious. It’s an open question as to whether he does it, or if he heads off in another direction, as Chad mentioned, but my Spidey sense says he does.

Miocic will lead by example, noting in his post-fight speech to Joe Rogan that he has “get back in the gym and get better.” He’s not a physical marvel like Ngannou or others, so he knows he needs to stay sharp and get sharper. He’s 35 years old and can’t do this forever, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be here for some time to come. He is not and probably never will be the UFC’s glamor boy, but he’s the heavyweight GOAT now, and that’s more than enough.

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What Is the UFC Heading into 2018?

It’s all over. 2017, that is.
Or, as a jettisoned former face of the UFC might say: It. Is. Allllllllllllllllllllllllllll. OVER!
It was not exactly a banner year for the promotion, and despite what Dana White brazenly claimed as it came to a close, it’…

It’s all over. 2017, that is.

Or, as a jettisoned former face of the UFC might say: It. Is. Allllllllllllllllllllllllllll. OVER!

It was not exactly a banner year for the promotion, and despite what Dana White brazenly claimed as it came to a close, it’s probably one the MMA leader is happy to see finished.

When the best work you do is to abstractly connect to your biggest star’s boxing debut, it’s hard to imagine feeling differently.

But now, with UFC 219 having come and gone and taught some lessons most already knew—Cris Cyborg is very good, Khabib Nurmagomedov is very good, you might not know 40 percent of the fighters on a pay-per-view card these days—the attention turns to the future.

And with that turning of focus, one major question arises: What is the UFC as we enter 2018?

In light of the brand’s position, nobody can give a good and honest answer.

Is it a fight promotion where the best fight the best?

Maybe, but considering Conor McGregor is holding a division hostage by not defending his title and Georges St-Pierre hurled a monkey wrench into one by jumping the queue for a title fight and then abandoning it immediately, it’s hardly guaranteed. Plenty of the best fighters in the world were passed over for money fights this past year; plenty more will be in the next.

So, is it a fight promotion where fights just happen for the sake of the money they’ll generate, merit be damned?

Also maybe, but there are still plenty of worthy champions out there hustling against the next top contender every time out. They deserve respect and acknowledgment in this odd, new climate, even if they don’t always get it.

Is it a media company?

One might have thought so until TV rights negotiations started and things went south. The gaping void of its over-the-top Fight Pass subscription service isn’t helping any, either. Originally sold as the future of fight viewing, the internet-only offering has devolved into an uninspired source of live events, if an adequate library of old fights. The UFC appears to be more a company with unrealized media interests and aspirations than anything else at this point.

How about a boxing promoter?

If you believe logos you see on Dana White’s T-shirts, it certainly is, but that’s about as close as it is to overseeing two pugilists in the ring right now. The likes of Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya—you know, actual boxing promoters—are even getting tired of hearing about it, and nothing pains boxing folk like taking the time to acknowledge MMA.

The whole thing is just a big, weird mess. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to any of this but rather a bunch of decisions being made and things happening, with no structure to any of it.

Under the guidance of the Fertitta brothers, there was a plan. And sure, it was often the type of grandiose scheming better suited to a Bond villain (who seriously targets a goal of “world f–king domination” in any context, ever?), but the results were good enough that such claims were accepted as part of the fun.

Could the UFC conquer Europe and Asia? Could it really ever become bigger than soccer on a global level? Was there a limit to the world’s appetite for mixed martial arts?

People mostly knew the answers, but they were along for the ride.

It was enjoyable to watch a sport evolve from grassroots to a multibillion-dollar commodity, and the entertainment and accessibility that came along with the product made the journey satisfying.

Today, could the average fan even tell you where the last event took place? Or what number it was? Or who headlined?

Probably not.

The modern UFC is rudderless, adrift in the sporting seas and taking on water thanks to a typhoon of pointless events filled with unknown fighters, worthless interim titles and the hottest new “chalk”-colored Reebok fight kits.

It spent 2016 working to please everyone—and boy did it ever please in 2016, with classics like McGregor vs. Nate Diaz (twice), Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey returning and the promotion finally breaking into New York—and then spent 2017 working to please absolutely nobody.

So what is the UFC heading into 2018?

Confused and confusing, compromised and confounding. Badly in need of someone or something to save it.

For the first time in years—probably ever, in fact—it is lost and there is no evidence it holds the key to finding itself.

New year, new me,” the saying goes.

New year, new UFC might apply as well. Whatever that means.

     

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder.

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It’s OK to Be Out on Conor McGregor’s Nonsense

Conor McGregor has been a whole bunch of fun.
Love him or hate him, he’s been about as much fun as anyone to ever step foot in the Octagon.
He went from an apprentice collecting welfare to a UFC knockout artist seemingly overnight, and from there…

Conor McGregor has been a whole bunch of fun.

Love him or hate him, he’s been about as much fun as anyone to ever step foot in the Octagon.

He went from an apprentice collecting welfare to a UFC knockout artist seemingly overnight, and from there what unfolded was one of the greatest rises to the top of sports culture the world has ever seen—in MMA or anywhere.

Sitting here on the proverbial eve of 2018, McGregor is 9-1 in the UFC and has won bouts in three different weight classes. He’s held titles in two of them.

He’s won performance bonuses in nine of his 10 fights.

There is a real case to be made that, when accounting for the blend of skill and excitement that makes a fighter’s performances into appointment viewing, McGregor is the best in the history of MMA.

But you know something else?

If you’re tired of his nonsense, of the games and gamesmanship, the constant stream of nothing headlines and even nothing-er actions that have supported his MMA career in the past year, nobody in their right mind would blame you.

While his diversion into professional boxing was objectively delightful—the pomp and circumstance of it, the abject silliness of it that we suspended our disbelief for, the fact that he actually acquitted himself incredibly well on fight night—everything that has followed has been symbiotically head-scratching and cringe-inducing.

There was his run-in with a referee who was actively shepherding a fight, which culminated in him lunging into the cage and shoving that ref and another commission official.

There was his homophobic slur caught on camera, something for which he appeared genuinely contrite but which wasn’t a good look in any event.

There was his alleged run-in with the Irish mob, the type of thing that usually comes about only for the most irresponsible of human beings, much less of professional athletes.

There was his boneheaded display at a courthouse around the same time.

And, perhaps most importantly in the midst of all this, there was the complete and utter absence of his committing to doing the thing he does best: fight.

While McGregor was off fighting referees, Tony Ferguson was fighting Kevin Lee to become interim UFC lightweight champion. Eddie Alvarez had a big win over Justin Gaethje, and Khabib Nurmagomedov and Edson Barboza will fight at UFC 219 to muck up the 155-pound queue that much more.

If those aren’t enough, Max Holloway is ruling McGregor’s old roost at 145 pounds with an increasingly iron fist and swelling popularity, and he took to Twitter to burn the former featherweight king after his last win.

Yet the closest anyone has gotten to pinning McGregor down for his next fight? Why, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, of course, because who doesn’t want to see an 0-1 pro boxer fight a 39-year-old, current Filipino senator?

And sure, yes, McGregor has since said that he wants his next fight to be in MMA, but what is that worth really? Not much, if reports from multiple sources, including the New York Post, are to be believed. The champ’s dipping and dodging regarding the specifics of such a return have done little to quiet concerns.

So just know that now, at this point in time, it’s OK to be out on McGregor and his nonsense. It’s been a fun ride with him to the top of the sport—one of the most fun rides the game will ever see, in fact—but the nonsense has come to overpower those good vibes. 

It’s just been going on too long, and there are too many other things in MMA to focus on.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder.

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

GSP Targeting McGregor, Mayweather for ‘Big, Exciting’ Fights

Well. Nobody saw this coming.
A little over a week after Georges St-Pierre vacated his middleweight title after winning it from Michael Bisping at UFC 217, his coach is already out there beating the bushes on potential future matchups.
Speaking with TS…

Well. Nobody saw this coming.

A little over a week after Georges St-Pierre vacated his middleweight title after winning it from Michael Bisping at UFC 217, his coach is already out there beating the bushes on potential future matchups.

Speaking with TSN in Canada (via MMA Fighting, h/t MMA Mania), longtime trainer and friend Firas Zahabi advised that the MMA icon would look into a return for a “big, exciting fight.”

The names he mentioned specifically? Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

There’s no shortage of people calling out McGregor these days, and it makes sense for St-Pierre to get in line. Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden made the case for the bout in the wake of UFC 217, suggesting the UFC couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to let such a moneymaker pass them by and that “[t]hey should make [the] fight immediately and never look back.”

But Mayweather? That idea is flat-out baffling.

Mayweather is not a mixed martial artist, not close to St-Pierre in size or weight, and is retired from combat sports in any event.

He teased a UFC run on a recent video chat he did, but does anyone believe he’d do it? And against St-Pierre, who made his career on taking down expert strikers and wrestlers alike and smashing them into a mush with ground-and-pound?

You don’t want to say “no chance”—after all, there was no chance McGregor and Mayweather would box one another; until there was—but it sure doesn’t seem likely.

This seems a prime example of a member of the MMA community just sayin’ stuff, but you never know in combat sports. 

Either way, fans can be pleased that the beloved St-Pierre is looking at fighting again, even if his choice of a possible opponent is cause for some head-scratching.

        

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