Is Conor Mcgregor REALLY the Greatest Mixed Martial Artist of all time?
By Makhosi Tshipa
First of all allow (the author) to say that this article was typed with trembling fingers and sweaty hands. Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor has become currently the most polarizing character in the entire sport, and were I merely to answer the subject matter with a simple yes or no, I would definitely be opening myself to heavy unrelenting criticism to his millions of vocal fans, and the billions out there that perceive the brash Irishman to be an over-rated UFC hype job. Allow me then, ample rope with which to hang myself, and hear me out.
First of all, reasons why it can be said that he is NOT the Greatest of All time.
- There is no such thing as a ‘Greatest of all time’
The very phrase is the fictitious by-product of the self exalting ego that has plagued every generation that has ever walked the earth. ‘All time’, folks, is a very long time to be playing with. All time implies that one is greater not only than everyone of their generation, but also greater than those before him (or her) and those of the generations to come. Since the days of Mohammed Ali it has been every generation’s favourite pastime to label one (or all) of their athletes as “the GOAT”. Take soccer, as a classical example. Ask a soccer fan from the 60s they will tell you that every soccer player thereafter pales in comparison to the great Pele. Ask someone from the 80s they will tell you that Pele (and everyone else before and after) was never good enough to even breathe the same air as Diego Maradonna. Ask those from the 90s and names like Ronaldhino and Zidane join the fray. Ask a soccer loving millennial and be prepared for a lenthy emotional speech about Lionnel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo (which may be punctuated with many a visit to youtube, for good measure). The point is, it is unfair for any generation to label its champion, in any sport, as the greatest of all time. Even the most incredible records set today will most certainly be broken, even the best fighters will eventually be beaten, and as their memory fades in the minds of the fans, new champions will arise, and standing on their predecessors’ achievements and discoveries, take the sport to new dizzying heights. May I humbly recommend ‘Greatest thus far’ as a more plausible title, for our most revered sportsmen? On this ground then , Conor McGregor is NOT the “GOAT”.
- What records has Conor set that may be considered “unprecedented” enough for him to be raised to such a colossal pedestal.
- He knocked out Jose Aldo, previously unbeaten for 9 years, in just under 13 seconds. Conor fans always raise this as his crowning moment, and the moment when he went up onto the pedestal as the GOAT. May I, however point it that flash KOs are a common occurance in MMA, even at a high levels like the UFC. Even Conor himself was not new to this, having KO’d Paddy Doherty in 5.6 seconds at Immortal Fighting Championship 4. If promptly dispatching of opponents is the measure of greatness, then may I humbly bring the following high level matches to your attention:
- Ryohei Masuda knocked out Takahiro Kuroishi in 2 seconds at Rings – The Outsider 2
- Mike Garrett knocked out Sam Heron in 2.6 seconds at Warrior’s Challenge MMA
- Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto knocked out Kazuyuki Miyata in 2.9 seconds at K-1 Hero’s 5
- Steve Ramirez knocked out Darvin Wattree in 3.1 seconds at Pure Combat 9 – Home Turf
Nearer to home, South Africa’s very own Michiel Opperman, stepped up on short notice and knocked out the undisputed EFC middleweight champion Yannick Bahati, in one second less than Conor took to dispatch of Aldo (12 seconds).
Is the above list then a comprehensive list of the sport’s GOATs? I rather think not. At this point Conor fans would argue that he, unlike all the rest, has made quick knockouts of HIGH LEVEL opposition, a norm in his fights. His consistency thus makes him stand out. But does it really?
Ronda Rousey did the work on Alexis Davis (UFC 175) AND Cat Zingano (UFC 184) in a combined time of 30 seconds. In fact, if you combine All of Rousey’s FIVE fights prior to her first (and only ) loss to Holly Holm, you will find that she defeated no less than FOUR world champions in a combined time of 3 minutes and 8 seconds. To put that into perspective, considering that a UFC championship match lasts 5 minutes, she would have beaten 4 world champions and one top contender in the space of one round, and still had 2 minutes of that round to spare.
How is THAT for consistency and ‘GOAT’ material?
- He is the greatest trash talker this sport has ever seen (Comparison to Mohammed Ali)
Nobody in MMA right nowcan hold a candle to him when it comes to smack talk, or, to illustrate it more clearly, he is the MMA version of Mohammed Ali.
Flimsy reason. And just as Incorrect as it is ludicrous.
Nate Diaz ran verbal circles around him in the run up to their UFC 196 showdown, and in the immediate aftermath of it. Period. In fact when it comes to smack talk the Diaz brothers have, for the last decade or so, arguably been the champions of verbal sparring, and when they crossed paths with Conor they didn’t make any exception of him. Beside them, anyone who claims that Conor has the fastest wit-to tongue coordination the sport has ever seen has obviously never listened to Dominic Cruz’ verbal jousting sessions, or Chael Sonnen, or even EFC’s very own Yannick Bahati. And besides, having quick wit is not a criteria for labeling one as a Sporting god, if it did wouldn’t ……………..
Again I hear sense Conor fans murmuring “oh but unlike all the other smack talkers he BACKS IT UP!!”
Dominic Cruz has been spewing trash for over two decades now, and has never been beaten in almost 11years now, although he has fought in championship (title) fights no less than EIGHT times.
- He is the best fighter ever. He has revolutionarised the sport
What has he brought to the game that we have not already seen before? Is it his amazing KO power? Jon Jones has that, and more. Is it his good head movement and evasiveness? A prime Anderson Silva would have made Conor’s defensive movement look like a middle eastern belly dance. Is his takedown defense better than Jon Jones, who suffered his first ever take down in his NINTH UFC match? Is his wrestling really better than Georges Saint Pierre’s? His cardio fitness, although improved, still could not be compared with that of Nate Diaz. To say he is the greatest southpaw would be displaying dire ignorance as to the power of Mirko Cro Cop’s left foot, which put even the legendary iron chinned Mark Hunt into a blissful slumber. So what then has the Notorious one brought to the table that we have never seen before?
Now before McGregor fans get their panties in a knot let me also do justice to the matter and objectively say….
MAYBE THERE IS SUBSTANCE TO THE STATEMENT THAT MCGREGOR IS THE GOAT….
If ever there was to be a GOAT in my opinion the athlete in question would have to be dominant, exciting, charismatic, well articulated, and unique from all the other fighters. Furthermore, a sport’s GOAT has to transcend the boundaries of his/ her sport, and hold an appeal even to the sport’s most casual spectators and even those that care nothing for the sport at all. In light of this, let me say that if there were ever to be GOATs in sports, from a laymen’s point of view it may be the following.
Basketball- Michael Jordan. Everyone knows the name, even those of us that care nothing for the sport. We just know that there is a Michael Jordan somewhere out there, who played (or as some think, invented) the sport of basketball, which is played by tall people.
Chess- Kasparov. The name is just synonymous with the sport. Few of us even know his first name
Soccer- a contentious one. For fear of upsetting more people than I already have I will not comment on this one. People have received death threats for voicing their opinions on even less controversial issues.
Rugby- Jonah Lomu. Even those of us who to this day cannot understand why rugby players pass the ball backward in order for it to go forward know this name.
Boxing- Mohammed Ali. Even a year after his death and 3 decades after his last fight, everyone knows his name
Knocking people out- if this was a sport on its own, it goes without saying….Mike Tyson.
So, in light of the above, if we were to put MMA in the list of sports needing a GOAT, it is with a heavy heart that I have to say, that Conor McGregor would eclipse the likes of Georges Saint Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Fedor Emelienenko. I feel strongly that all the rest have earned the GOAT title by virtue of skill and merit, but for one reason or the other they remained in the confines of the sports annals. McGregor, on the other hand, is a household name in all combat sports. He has been called out, for fights by legends in all the other mainstream combat sports. Floyd Mayweather (himself a claimant of the GOAT title in his sport) has openly expressed interest in facing him. The Muay Thai Legend Saenchai has also openly expressed interest in slugging it out with the brash Irishman. Even professional wrestlers from organisations like the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) have taken barbs at him, and dared him to step into the ring with them.
Within his sport his influence is almost frightening. Barely a press conference goes by without his name being mentioned, even in divisions much higher than his own. The UFC is currently the biggest MMA promotion on the planet, and just like he predicted years ago, he is no longer regarded as a fighter on the promotion’s roster anymore, but rather the promotion on the fighters’ roster.
Outside of the UFC all fighters are adopting McGregor- like habits in the hope of hitting it big like he has. Trash talking, which was once shunned and frowned upon in the sport, has now become a necessity, and undoubtable this is Conor’s doing. Even within the local south African fight scene, quite a few fighters (who I may not name because even as a reporter you dare not poke fun at a man whose sole occupation in life is a combat sport) have adopted his hairstyles, beard, and I kidd you not I have had the pleasure of seeing an MMA fighter (again identity withheld) with a chest tattoo very akeen to the Notorious’ own. The man has single handedly changed the sport.
And as for his fighting ability, which should be key to him being labelled a GOAT, McGregor is well above reproach, to say the least. He may not have the fluid movement of Dominic Cruz yet, or Cro Cop’s vicious left foot, or Anderson Silva’s creativity, etc, but in all honesty I see glimpses of all the above in him. He is well rounded, solid in the stand up, effective on the ground and very efficient in the clinch. No one fighter has ever been perfect but if ever there was one who steadily advanced toward such a state, it may be argued that Conor was that one. And he keeps improving, with every match that passes and every hurdle he has to climb, he keeps getting better. Right before our very eyes he has morphed from the one trick pony that arrived nearly 5 years ago from Cage Warriors to an effective wrestler (something he had to learn in preparation for his fight with the established wrestler Chad Mendez) efficient mover (which he learned as he prepared to meet the light footed Jose Aldo) and a very cardio fit athlete (which he became as he prepared for his rematch with the never tiring Nate Diaz).
Add to his successes inside the octagon with groundbreaking, always record shattering fight earnings, the likes of which the sport has never seen before. Currently, he is estimated to be worth a whooping $22, Million, which may not seem like much in the scales of high end athletes but is quite impressive considering that his value is greater than that of Jose Aldo ($3 Mill), Jon Jones ($9million), Fedor Emelienenko ($9 Million) put together. Not too bad for a man who just joined the big league 5 years ago and is still, by all implications, on the rise
To add a bit of taste to his argument (and salt to the wounds of his detractors, like yours truly) although perhaps not the greatest trash talker the sport has ever seen, Conor has provided fight fans with a few memorable gems in his time. His quirky jabs are made even more memorable by his heavy Irish accent, which he makes no attempt whatsoever to hide. Thanks to him and his witty trash talk, red women’s lingerie is now associated with festivities and celebrations. How else could a common African couple like me and my wife have known such if Conor had not brought “red panty night” into common culture
In conclusion I will say, that I do not believe in a ’Greatest of all time’ in MMA, or in any other sport, for that matter (the sport is barely even 20 years old, for crying out loud). However, if ever we are to label any of the past and present fighters as the ‘Greatest Thus Far’ (G.T.F.- you see, it even sounds better) then that title would, fortunately or unfortunately, belong to the brash young man from Dublin Ireland, Conor “the Notorious” Mcgregor.