We learned many things from the McGregor/Nurmagomedov fight in Las Vegas but it also posed many more questions at the same time. The key one has surely been whether, at the age of 30, McGregor is now a spent force who presented little opposition to his Russian challenger. Some cynics might even say that the Mayweather fight was a watershed moment for the fighter and one in which material gains became more interesting to him than dominance in the octagon. For example he now has his own whisky brand – a sure sign that he may be looking to the future when he’s finally hung up his gloves for the last time.
But it would be a foolhardy move to write him off too early as there are plenty of examples of fighters who have gone on winning as the years advanced with Brock Lesna and Anderson Silva being two prime examples. Then there’s the sheer determination of McGregor to be taken into account. After all, he had the sheer drive and dedication to be back fighting just 14 weeks after tearing an ACL, an injury that could have ended the career of many other fighters.
It’s also worth pointing out that this was his first MMA fight for two years and his preparations for his highly lucrative encounter with Floyd Mayweather Jr will hardly have included any wrestling training. So the rusty performance we saw in Vegas is in no way indicative of what may lie ahead for him. Whether this may also include a rematch with the boxer, who could well be persuaded to come out of retirement by the lure of another huge purse, remains to be seen but few would discount it out of hand.
It would also seem to be an opportune time to take a look at some of the first rate fighters who McGregor has beaten in the past rather than labouring over the surprising defeat that was meted out to him and the controversial scenes that followed.
Perhaps one of the fights that best defines McGregor’s class and quality came in 2015 when he met Jose Aldo in the Featherweight Championship Unification bout. This was a hotly anticipated event which typified the nature of all of the Irishman’s fights. There was trash talk aplenty with assertions that the Aldo camp were always on the verge of pulling out and it was predicted to generate a record-breaking gate of at least $10 million. It also attracted a record Nevada crowd for a bout with 16,516 people in attendance. Whether any of them would say that they received value for money that night is hard to say. In terms of witnessing the complete demolition of an opponent they certainly did. But as it was all over in just 13 seconds of the first round the cost per second of entertainment was certainly very high.
While the Aldo fight was undoubtedly the moment when McGregor truly showed his class, early on his career it was the encounter with Max Holloway that showed the world of MMA that here was a very special talent to watch. As a relative unknown, when he burst into the octagon using some very handy taekwondo moves his footwork proved unbeatable for Holloway, himself a last-minute replacement for McGregor’s original opponent, Andy Ogle. But the victory did come at a price. Soon afterwards the Irishman had an MMI scan which revealed that the barrage of kicks he inflicted on Holloway had resulted in the torn ACL already mentioned.
In his final fight before changing his focus and concentrating on the Mayweather fight, McGregor carried out a clinical, if not quite as rapid, demolition of Eddie Alvarez to claim the UFC Lightweight Championship in quite some style. In defeating him with a technical knockout in the second round he also became the first fighter in the history of the sport to hold simultaneous titles in two different weight classes.
So, as we can see, the pedigree of McGregor is impeccable but can the same really be said of his victor, Nurmagomedov? The jury is still well and truly out on this one, for very good reason.
On paper the Russian has an unblemished record of 27 victories and no defeats but if we look a little closer at who those opponents have been a different story emerges. Few, if any, have had the class and experience of the fighters who McGregor has encountered. This puts everything into a little more perspective and it will certainly take some more victories against top quality opposition before any true comparisons can be made.
As for McGregor, his future seems a little more secure than Nurmagomedov’s who is still awaiting news of any action to be taken against him after the disgraceful scenes that came after their meeting. However McGregor allegedly wants to restore his pride with another meeting . When, where and even if this re-match take place remains to be seen. But if it does we can certainly look forward to some fireworks, as well as McGregor striving to build an even stronger legacy for himself.