Conor Has All He Needs to Shock Floyd and the World—Except Boxing Acumen

Acumen.
Noun; the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain. Synonyms include astuteness, shrewdness, acuity and sharpness.
It’s a versatile word, used from business to academics to, you guessed it, athle…

Acumen.

Noun; the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain. Synonyms include astuteness, shrewdness, acuity and sharpness.

It’s a versatile word, used from business to academics to, you guessed it, athletics.

Athletics as in boxing.

For example, a mere week-and-a-half from one of the biggest athletic events in this generation, its use is in reference to the boxing acumen of Conor McGregor, who will take on Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena. Its use is to acknowledge he is almost totally lacking in it on any meaningful level, and the world will soon see what that’s worth when he steps between the ropes.

Yet if you’ve followed McGregor up to this point, you’re probably comfortable suggesting he has everything else he needs to get the job done.

The lead-up to the fight has been rife with entirely factual, highly relevant points from McGregor, even amid his more problematic statements. Ever the salesman, he’s quick to point out the ways he’s a unique threat to Mayweather. One particular rant at a group of bystanders outside of Madison Square Garden earlier this year, angrier than many he’s indulged in since this circus came to town, was instructive:

“I’m the boxing guy, watch me take over boxing!” he bellowed to an onlooker, as Fight Hub TV captured (warning: link contains NSFW language). “No one in this boxing game knows what’s coming. Trust me on that. When I step in there, I’m going to shock the whole goddamned world.”

He continued, eyes increasingly wild: “Look me in the eyes! Twenty-eight years of age! Confident as a motherf–ker, long, rangy, dangerous with every hand!

“Trust me, I’m gonna stop Floyd! You’re all gonna eat your words; the whole world is gonna eat their words!”

He makes some good points.

If one looks past the idea of McGregor‘s limited boxing acumen for a moment, there is reason to think the Irishman has some things going for him. If there weren’t, nearly $100 on pay-per-view and God only knows how much to get in the building on fight night wouldn’t be possible.

Even though McGregor just turned 29 in July, he is over a decade younger than Mayweather. He is long and rangy in a way that few Mayweather opponents have been. He is confident and dangerous with each hand.

And that’s only one short clip of McGregor‘s ranting his way through New York while visions of dollar signs flash in his head.

He doesn’t touch on other elements of his game, like his sheer density for a 154-pounder, the unpredictability he’ll have on his side or his vaunted, almost admirable ability to believe in himself no matter the odds.

While McGregor acknowledges his own length and range, look at his only UFC fight at 155 pounds (UFC 205 last November) and see how bulky he is at that weight. Look at the size of his arms and back compared to those of Eddie Alvarez, the then-lightweight champion with 170-pound fights under his belt. Look at how easily and freely he moves that enormous frame around and how he lands punches from range, both off counters and when getting off first.

Against Mayweather, who has fought as low as 130 pounds and only rarely at 154 pounds in his career, that is a legitimate advantage.

Consider also his unpredictability in combat. Some of it is on display in the Alvarez fight, even though MMA lends itself to unpredictability more so than boxing.

McGregor‘s head coach, John Kavanaghtold The 42 in June 2017 after the Mayweather bout was announced:

“I believe we have a number of advantages going into this fight. Often, people who are experts in a certain field will tell you that it can actually be more awkward to deal with somebody who’s not from the same field. They’d rather deal with the top contender from their own discipline because he’ll move in a way that you assume he’ll move.

“Mayweather has been in the boxing world for his entire career, and everyone he’s faced has moved in a certain way that he’s preconditioned to handle. Now he’s going up against a guy who doesn’t follow any set patterns, who can deploy a variety of different styles of fighting and is not one bit intimidated. Conor is—as we all are here—100 percent confident in victory. That kind of person is very difficult to deal with.”

This is an astute observation from Kavanagh—one that will be confirmed by many professional athletes across many different sports if you ask.

It is far more challenging for a fighter to spar with individuals from different backgrounds in combat sports, which is why it’s such a popular means of preparation in MMA camps.

Other sports support the idea as well. Often at lower levels or coming up through amateur ranks, there are less elite players and thus more unpredictable or outright bad play, so it becomes more of a challenge to those who are elite and are thinking and acting on a much higher plane.

Poker may have been the most interesting analogy around the time internet players and traditional players converged for the first time. “Amateur” internet players began employing unorthodox, unpredictable strategies that more seasoned pros couldn’t account for after years of playing on “feel” alone. The result was great success for those players coming from cyberspace, a more general adjustment in strategies overall and an evolution of the game.

In boxing Mayweather, McGregor has the practiced and refined unpredictability of his natural fighting style working in his favor, but he also has the unpracticed and unrefined unpredictability of being so new to professional boxing.

It’s not a guaranteed pathway to success, but it’s something that will take Mayweather some time to unpack. That might be all the time McGregor needs to land one of those dangerous hands and start some trouble.

And then, of course, there’s the self-belief. Nobody in the history of sports—maybe in history, period—has ever believed in themselves the way McGregor believes in himself. Time and again he tells people he intends to do the impossible, and while it’s often met with a collective cluck of the tongue from doubters, he goes out and does it.

His UFC run was a freight train fueled by the momentum of his proclamations. His concurrent UFC titles were the station the train halted at for a breather. This whole scene against Mayweather is the culmination of every positive, self-believing thought.

Nobody ever got rich doubting McGregor, and McGregor has gotten rich believing in himself. If that track record doesn’t count for something, you’re doubting him at your own peril.

With camps winding down and the final promotional push ready to take the world into one of the biggest boxing matches it has ever seen, what does boxing acumen matter?

McGregor has plenty working for him, and he’s gotten this far with acumen as an afterthought.

As UFC President Dana White has been fond of saying in promoting this bout, “At the end of the day, it’s a fight.”

He’s right about that. Anything can happen in a fight. 

If McGregor levels a boxing icon? There’ll be no room to challenge his boxing acumen anymore, either.

       

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

Conor McGregor and Ariel Helwani View the Malignaggi Footage Dana White Leaked

Ariel Helwani has always had pretty good access to the stars of MMA.
As one of the foremost journalistic presences in the sport, it’s no wonder Conor McGregor would handpick him to participate in his biggest moments—even in the face of Helwani be…

Ariel Helwani has always had pretty good access to the stars of MMA.

As one of the foremost journalistic presences in the sport, it’s no wonder Conor McGregor would handpick him to participate in his biggest moments—even in the face of Helwani being on the outs with the UFC since 2016.

Helwani has walked the streets of Dublin with McGregor before he was a superstar, spent an evening on stage with McGregor for a pay-per-view interview this January and sat on the edge of a McGregor Sports & Entertainment boxing ring discussing the definitive clip of Malignaggigate.

OK. Rethink the name maybe. But the point remains the same.

After considerable chirping back and forth between them, Paulie Malignaggi, a retired boxer and commentator for Showtime boxing, went to Las Vegas to do some sparring with McGregor, who is preparing for his August 26 bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Drama ensued.

After only a couple of days, pictures emerged on social media of Malignaggi, winded and badly wearing it. Not long after, there was another of him on the canvas while McGregor stood proudly in the center of the ring.

Malignaggi, fiercely proud and not much of a McGregor fan to begin with, left the camp as quickly as he’d arrived and went on an all-out media blitz to dress down everything from McGregor’s punching power to his real estate choices.

He insisted that McGregor had pushed him and the whole thing was a conspiracy set up by McGregor’s people and the UFC. Video of the incident, which UFC President Dana White “leaked” on Friday, seemed to pretty convincingly show McGregor pawing at Malignaggi with a lead right hand then landing a left, putting the “Magic Man” on his behind in the process.

In any event, it was easily the most ink Malignaggi has gotten in years and even has people wondering if the whole thing might be a hustle to set up a legitimate fight with McGregor down the line.

And once again it’s Helwani with the access—in a clip released Saturday on the MMA Fighting Twitter account, he shows McGregor the video White leaked and gets his thoughts on the whole feud.

Check out the Malignaggi material in the tweet below:

Or watch the entire, 23-minute interview with McGregor below:

        

So what do you think? Punch or push? Have your say in the comments below!        

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

On Conor McGregor’s Unfathomable Rise in Modern Sports Culture

There was a moment when it became clear Conor McGregor was an undeniable force.
It was a little over three years into his UFC run.
He was the reigning featherweight champion of the world and was moments away from becoming the lightweight champion as we…

There was a moment when it became clear Conor McGregor was an undeniable force.

It was a little over three years into his UFC run.

He was the reigning featherweight champion of the world and was moments away from becoming the lightweight champion as well—the first man or woman to ever achieve simultaneous reigns in separate divisions in UFC history.

At UFC 205, the promotion’s long-awaited debut in New York City, which emanated from the vaunted Madison Square Garden, McGregor headlined against Eddie Alvarez. Alvarez, for his part, was a worthy adversary in every way, a stalwart who could wrestle and box and had gone 28-of-32 in MMA fights before that night.

McGregor appeared unruffled, however.

Entering the cage, he strutted and swayed about, arms swinging exaggeratedly as if to exude a looseness he apparently felt down to his core. It was the pinnacle of physical confidence, this ability to make something so silly into a foreshadowing of the swaggering way he’d dispatch Alvarez moments later.

What’s more, he aped it from pro wrestling icon Vince McMahon. The “Billionaire Strut” was once a staple of McMahon’s villainous on-air persona. In a way, you can’t get much more absurd than that.

Yet McGregor embraced the absurdity. He doubled down on a mink coat (Note: linked article contains NSFW language) he’d worn days prior at the event’s pre-fight press conference.

“I’m thinking Vince McMahon must be pissed,” he said during a pay-per-view interview in January 2017. “I stole that walk, and that walk is now mine. That’s my walk. I created that walk. I made that walk.”

And it is.

It’s his because while McMahon was doing it for years, it was only after McGregor broke it out moments before his crowning athletic achievement that you started seeing other celebrities and athletes aping him.

That was the moment you could no longer ignore McGregor’s unfathomable rise in modern sports culture. Seeing global superstars pinch his act in the name of coolness cemented him as an icon, an inspiration to some and an attention-grabber to all. It’s what’s made him a cultural force well before his 30th birthday.

Not bad for a guy who collected a welfare check back in 2013. 

Now we’re here.

Ten months after arriving at the highest levels of the sports world, McGregor has used his exploding fame to land one of the biggest paydays in boxing history—and the biggest payday ever collected by an MMA fighter.

He’ll fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. on August 26 in a contest that should net him $100 million despite his never having competed in professional boxing.

The notion that it’s happening is a testament to how much people want to see McGregor in action. Yes, he’s fighting the biggest draw in boxing history and that’s where much of the money is coming from, but Mayweather was retired before McGregor came along and drew him back in for one more enormous payout.

“We’re not here to cry about money. I’m tired of all this crying about money and talking about [how McGregor wants] to fight,” Mayweather said on a media tour earlier this year, per FightHype.com (Warning: video contains NSFW language). “[He’s] blowing smoke up everybody’s ass.”

He continued: “If [he wants] to fight, sign the paperwork, let’s do it. Today, I’m officially out of retirement for Conor McGregor. We don’t need to waste no time.”

They didn’t. The bout was announced in June, a mere 10 weeks out from it happening, the ultimate sprint to fight night. As has been known to happen, McGregor got his way when most thought it impossible. 

A big part of McGregor’s rise through the ranks and into prominence has been linked to his cultivation of an image.

He’s a modern athlete for modern times in that sense, speaking in shareable quotes and soundbites, blending streetwise wisdom with inspirational philosophy, using Twitter and Instagram to display decadence and opulence that the famous relate to and the proletariat aspires to.

As Jeremy Botter of Bleacher Report put it in July 2015, “[McGregor] is a quote machine, always good for a headline. He says things few others in the sport of mixed martial arts will, and he takes direct aim at current and future opponents with a razor-sharp tongue.”

A quick scroll through McGregor‘s social media accounts shows him shopping on Rodeo Drive, bragging about having statues made in his image or modeling some variety of clothing or car that only the most confident men on Earth would be caught dead in.

He’s shown up at events in a gaudy mink coat, something that looked like it came off of a polar bear but still managed to have a dragon emblazoned across it and, of course, the instantly famous “f–k you” suit he rocked for his first public meeting with Mayweather.

He makes no apologies for who he is, and he makes sure the masses know about it every step of the way. It’s the type of shrewd maneuvering uniquely tailored to his era, where everyone is connected by a device in their pocket or on their desk or in their lap and they can voyeuristically watch his rise to the top whenever they fancy. 

Love him or hate him, there is no ignoring him.

The inability to ignore McGregor has blossomed into full-blown fascination with him now, in sports and beyond. The rich and the famous will be ringside to see him fight Mayweather, and people all over the planet will plunk down $100 to watch him do the same from their homes. 

It’s reasonable to expect McGregor, win or lose, will use the opportunity he’s created for himself on August 26 to transcend sports culture and bleed over into the mainstream going forward.

There’s evidence it’s happening already, in fact.

It’s been a meteoric rise the likes of which has almost never been seen in sports, and it’s culminated in circumstances that would never have been possible at any other point in history. It also wouldn’t have been possible with any other athlete.

McGregor understands what it takes to be great in his craft, but he also understands what it takes to be great outside of it. He’s exploded from the shackles of the UFC to become a one-man enterprise, an athlete and promoter who’s the richest in his sport and looking to become the richest, period.

If his bank account continues to grow like his profile has, before long there’ll be nothing absurd about his Billionaire Strut at all.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

Conor MMA’s Biggest Rags-to-Riches Story Yet—He Just Needed Boxing to Do It

“We’re not here to take part—we’re here to take over.”
Those words—which Conor McGregor uttered after knocking out Diego Brandao in July 2014—birthed an icon in Ireland, another warrior to carry forth the tricolor and f…

“We’re not here to take part—we’re here to take over.”

Those words—which Conor McGregor uttered after knocking out Diego Brandao in July 2014birthed an icon in Ireland, another warrior to carry forth the tricolor and foist the tiny nation upon his back for an ascent up the mountain of combat sports.

At the time, they were more imaginative than anything, a battle cry from a burgeoning star who had just blasted his way to a win on the strength of his eventually famous left hand.

He’d done it live on UFC Fight Pass, an online subscription service that only the most hardcore mixed martial arts fans would care to pay for, and it thus occurred before an audience size one might expect for such a platform.

Three years later, that star has fully arrived, ascending to every lofty statement he’s made.

He’s taken over the game. He’s taken over multiple games. His next fight will garner him more dollars than that fight on the internet had viewers.

He is Conor McGregor, and he told you he’d be here and he’d do this and you’d all just have to sit there and like it. He’s the ultimate rags-to-riches tale of a man gone from a plumber collecting welfare to a bona fide one-man global brand in a time frame equivalent to a presidential term.

It’s never been seen before in MMA.

What he didn’t tell you was he’d need boxing to do it.

It’s been a common narrative since McGregor signed to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. that he has never boxed before, but that’s inaccurate. McGregor was a boxer long before he was ever the biggest name in MMA history; he’s just never devoted himself to it exclusively.

Early indications of an interest in boxing were instructive of the general path McGregor would take, but perhaps not so clear as to the magnitude. Past instances have seen him acknowledge the interest more generally as a foundation for his MMA success, but never as an obvious career path.

He told Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter in 2015 that, as a young footballer in Ireland, he stumbled across a boxing gym and would occasionally spectate before and after his time on the pitch. After a childhood move forced him to engage his own solitude more often, he turned that spectatorship into action and got more serious about martial arts.

He began kickboxing but worked on his boxing more seriously as well.

“I realized I was enjoying combat sports a lot more than I was enjoying football,” he said. “Instead of going to the football club, I would go next door to the boxing club.”

On August 26, McGregor will hit a level in boxing that he surely never contemplated while hitting mitts in a stale-smelling fight factory in the Lucan part of Dublin. He’ll face both his stiffest and most famous competition when he toes the line opposite Mayweather.

It will be a professional boxing match, McGregor’s first ever and Mayweather’s 50th.

It’s a bout that was improbable when the two began sniping in the media but one that was churned out quickly once it became apparent everyone involved wanted it.

Now, McGregor will score more money than he’s ever seen in his life, a total many believe will hit $100 million—probably the salary of every plumber in Ireland combined for the year and then some—simply for lacing up the big gloves and jumping into another sport for a night.

That proposition alone is both courageous and outrageous, a testament to McGregor’s sheer force of will. He’ll fight the best boxer of his generation without ever having competed in professional boxing, and he believes he’s going to win.

A separate 2015 interview with B/R’s Jonathan Snowden showcased that self-belief and the matter-of-fact way McGregor approaches his fights.

“I don’t speak trash. I speak truth. Occasionally, I might throw in a little insult here or there, but this is the Irish way,” he said. “If I feel something is the way it is, I will say it. I will let it be known. Some people can’t handle the truth. That’s not my problem.”

He’ll be part of the promotional team under his newly formed McGregor Sports and Entertainment, and it will charge nearly twice the going rate for a UFC pay-per-view to see him under the Marquess of Queensberry rules.

And all of it—the price tag, the promoting, the payday—would not have been possible in MMA. It would not have been possible in the UFC.

The salaries there are too paltry, the style of a promotion too authoritarian and absent of fighter input. Time and again, those beholden to MMA have lamented how little their pursuits provide for them financially.

It’s a tale nearly as old as the sport itself, and it has made McGregor even more divisive among his fellow athletes than he was before he signed to fight Mayweather. While some love and respect him for his willingness to go big, others sit in frustration at his ability to hold up entire UFC divisions.

Still, given the number of fellow UFC athletes who’ve taken to calling out boxers or trying to get on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard, McGregor has done something right.

Bottom line: He has created a one-time payout unlike anything MMA or the UFC could ever offer him.

Even though McGregor‘s already the biggest star and the biggest earner there, UFC President Dana White himself said of making Mayweather-McGregor that he’d never stand in the way of McGregor’s earning such a payday.

McGregor got his way and his priority all along.

“The whole division can hate me. The whole roster can hate me. The whole of America can hate me. I only need one American to love me,” McGregor said, a grin creeping onto his face. “And that’s Mr. Benjamin Franklin. As long as he loves me, I am good.”

He told you he’d be here and that he’d do this.

I predict these things,” he said after knocking out Dustin Poirier at UFC 178.

Once again he has. He just never predicted how.

With a track record like McGregor’s, though? That’s a minor criticism.

           

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

Did Rashad Evans’ Career Just End in Mexico City?

On a hot summer night in a land far from his home and way above sea level, a once great champion lost to a divisional afterthought.
He looked tepid and old—the continuation of a trend that’s been ongoing for a number of years—despite lookin…

On a hot summer night in a land far from his home and way above sea level, a once great champion lost to a divisional afterthought.

He looked tepid and old—the continuation of a trend that’s been ongoing for a number of years—despite looking as close to physically perfect as he ever has in his career.

Rashad Evans, the once great champion, looked very much done with this whole mixed martial arts racket during his loss to Sam Alvey, the divisional afterthought, at UFC Fight Night: Pettis vs. Moreno on Saturday.

It all had a sad, almost surreal quality to it. Evans found himself buried on the undercard of an event nobody in their right mind was invested in, one fight away from jerking the curtain for names like Niko Price and Humberto Bandenay.

He looked shot, trepidation apparent from the get-go as he labored through three rounds against a capable but entirely unspectacular foe. It was his fourth loss in a row and sixth in eight fights after he lost only three times in the previous eight years.

Everything that made Evans a legend was gone: explosiveness, athleticism, unpredictability and ever-underrated in-fight intellect. It looked to anyone who knew what he once was like he was a man who had lived a long, hard 37 years on this planet and that fighting in a steel cage on a Saturday night was the last thing he should be doing.

It would almost be insulting to Evans, owner of light heavyweight wins over legends like Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson and Dan Henderson, if it didn’t appear to be his own insistence at continuing a so obviously deleterious MMA career that was keeping him active.

This is a man who was a UFC champion during the sport’s greatest boom, a man who was capable of drawing as many eyes and dollars as the best in the business. He’s every bit the Hall of Famer contemporaries such as BJ Penn, Georges St-Pierre, Matt Hughes and Forrest Griffin are, and he holds convincing wins over almost every big name from his era.

And now he’s losing to Alvey on free television? On an event that got less attention than Joe Rogan’s interview selections?

Nope. No thanks.

It’s time for him to let go of this sport and his role as an active athlete and move on to things for which he’s better suited.

His experience and aforementioned intellect would position him well to train fighters, if he so desired. He ran roughshod through heavyweights to win the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, and he ascended to the top of the light heavyweight class when it was at its best. Learning what was behind those accomplishments would surely be valuable to up-and-coming fighters.

He is fantastic as an analyst on UFC broadcasts and could easily expand that line of work. He’s educated, articulate and charismatic and already has working relationships with both Fox and the UFC.

It likely wouldn’t take much for him to be a regular at the Fox desk or on Fight Pass going forward, a safer pursuit than dodging headkicks and future CTE in the name of scraping by (or losing to) the Alveys of the world.

For that matter, he could use the same tools that make him a great analyst to jump over into acting. Fellow Fox regulars Tyron Woodley and Michael Bisping have done as much, and both share many of the best traits of Evans in front of a camera.

It’s hard to pinpoint what brought Evans to this point, whether it was losing coach Greg Jackson amid a feud with Jon Jones, the continued long delays imposed on him during his 30s or age and wear simply caught up to him as it catches up to every combat athlete.

Regardless, this version of Evans is nothing close to the one that was iconic in its era. He is a man who has accomplished everything and has been stripped away to nothing competitively. There is nothing left for him in this game.

Did we see the end of Rashad Evans’ career in Mexico City?

Only he knows, and no one else gets to make the decision for him. 

But based on his storied career, the money he’s made, the options he has for the future and how he’s looked recently, one would have to hope we did.

         

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder.

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com

Meet Tyron Woodley, the UFC’s Most Hated Champion

Imagine a guy.
He is well-educated. Went to the University of Missouri, in fact.
He is articulate, a reflection of that education, and he has done well as a television personality—even actor.
He has a respectable social conscience.
He is a great …

Imagine a guy.

He is well-educated. Went to the University of Missouri, in fact.

He is articulate, a reflection of that education, and he has done well as a television personality—even actor.

He has a respectable social conscience.

He is a great athlete; he excelled as a college wrestler and a mixed martial artist and collected titles in the biggest promotions in the world.

Got an idea in your head about that guy and what he is all about? Thinking he’s probably pretty likable, a man basking in positive vibes wherever he goes?

Think again. You’ve got UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, and people seem to hate Tyron Woodley.

Going into his third title defense, Woodley is openly disdained in a way few other UFC champions are.

Michael Bisping isn’t beloved, but there is an impishness to him that feels kind of tongue-in-cheek and softens the blow when it comes to people disliking him.

Demetrious Johnson and Jon Jones are divisive, as is Conor McGregor, but none of them are as flatly and unanimously loathed by the fanbase in the way Woodley is.

And when you consider him objectively, it’s kind of puzzling. He seems like a guy people would get behind. It’s only when you dig a little deeper that the dots connect more clearly.

Woodley earned a title shot as dubiously as one could imagine, forging a path to gold built on evasiveness and dispatching some of the most universally adored fighters in MMA along the way.

He beat Carlos Condit by TKO but did it only when Condit blew out his knee and could no longer continue.

He got to the cusp of a title fight after narrowly beating Kelvin Gastelum in a catchweight fight after Gastelum missed weight—no reflection on Woodley—and then spent 18 months inactive, waiting for a title shot.

When he came back, it was against champion Robbie Lawler. He was the most treasured champion in the sport at the time, a fanatically violent man who more or less didn’t know how not to be in a Fight of the Year during his welterweight tear from 2013 to 2016.

Woodley knocked him cold in two minutes flat. Not great for his image, and it only got worse from there.

Woodley took his title win as a chance to act as though he was calling the shots. He demanded fights with Nick Diaz, Georges St-Pierre, Conor McGregor (two retirees and a guy fighting in another weight class) and others, while showing no regard for challengers waiting their turn—including Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, another figure fans have delighted in and one who had won seven straight bouts on the way to earning his shot.

Yet Woodley held fast in pursuit of his “money fight” and even took to lobbing insults at Thompson while refusing the contest. He eventually relented, but only when the pairing was placed on the lucrative UFC 205 card.

No one can blame him for wanting to get paid, but lots of people can blame him for how he went about it. It’s hard to take to a guy who delays or refuses fights, points fingers along the way and then restarts the whole process the minute he leaves the cage.

Most recently, the process restarted with Demian Maia, whom Woodley will battle Saturday at UFC 214. He showed little interest in Maia as an opponent, citing a desire to chase paydays instead.

Some felt the real concern was Maia, a jiu-jitsu specialist so specialized that the word “specialist” is almost insulting, has a penchant for beating people badly and making them look even worse as he does.

With Woodley’s tendency to fight with his back against the cage, he’s almost tailor-made to fall victim to Maia’s smothering mauling. And if he did, he would lose whatever leverage he has in navigating the MMA landscape or negotiating with the UFC.

So it’s kind of easy to see why people seem to hate Woodley so much. He’s done a lot of irritating things to overshadow the many positives he offers, and he’s always quick to take his stance and go in hard on anyone who isn’t standing with him.

It’s unfortunately paradoxical: The harder he goes in, the harder people hate on him. 

You probably don’t need to tell Woodley, though—he’s been hearing it for years, and it looks like it’s going to be around for as long as he’s champion.

       

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder.

Read more MMA news on BleacherReport.com