Jose Aldo vs Conor Mcgregor UFC’s version of Floyd Mayweather
LAS VEGAS — There are several themes to the torrent of trash talk that spews from Conor McGregor’s mouth with such regularity that you wonder if it is a recording on a loop.
Much of it is crude, laced with sexual references and salty language, delivered with such bombast that a wave of followers have been caught up in the slipstream, making McGregor the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s biggest current star.
Ahead of UFC 194 and McGregor’s headline act against reigning featherweight champion Jose Aldo, the Irishman has spent months telling Aldo, the mixed martial world, and, increasingly, the wider public, just why he is so special.
“I’m in a totally different stratosphere to the rest of them,” McGregor said at a recent media stop. “This sport has never had anything like me. I am blazing a trail.”
Indeed he is. Never in the history of UFC has a fighter made such an impact and so much money without being a dominant champion for a healthy period of time. McGregor holds the interim featherweight title but has never owned the main strap in his own right — that has belonged to Aldo ever since the UFC implemented the division in 2010.
Nevertheless, the 27-year-old from Dublin has parlayed his popularity into a rare pay-per-view based contract with the organization, one that is likely to add millions to his bank balance.
“We could tell from the beginning that (McGregor) had the potential to be one of a kind,” UFC president Dana White said.
McGregor’s willingness to embrace the role of the anti-hero comes at a time when such characters wield more power than ever, social media being the perfect vehicle for those with sharp wit and unimpeded ego.
But before we credit McGregor (18-2, 16 KOs) with reinventing the blueprint for hyping combat sports, let’s back up just a little. For you don’t have to dig too deep to find where McGregor gets his inspiration; his promotional tactics are straight out of the playbook used to lucrative effect by boxer Floyd Mayweather.
The rules are simple but effective. Fill your social media with displays of your wealth. Buy a fleet of cars and take lots of pictures of them. Spend as much time talking about business and money and how much of it you make as you do about sports. Talk trash to your opponents, your future opponents and the friends of your opponents.
However, the final part of the Mayweather plan is one McGregor will need to adhere to if his juggernaut is to keep rolling. That would be dont’ lose … ever. Easier said than done when you compete in the most unpredictable of all sports and when you’re up against a pound-for-pound legend.
McGregor is the bookies’ favorite going into Saturday night’s contest, which says much for the optimism of the wave of Irish supporters that have invaded Las Vegas to cheer him on and also points to the sense that while Aldo (25-1, 14 KOs) has long been a dominant champion, McGregor may be a megastar waiting to happen.
“I see myself as the favorite,” McGregor said, adding that he does not expect the bout to go into a second round. “I carry myself as the favorite.”
Aldo says little, inflammatory or otherwise, which only adds to the contrast between the men and the intrigue of the clash, which promises to be the UFC’s showpiece of the year.
Neither McGregor nor Aldo show signs of nerves and neither does White, although much rides on the outcome for him and his company. Having seen one juggernaut stopped in its tracks when Ronda Rousey was knocked out by Holly Holm last month, a McGregor defeat would see another star lose some of their sparkle.
“That’s just the business we are in,” White said, and he’s right. In Vegas, of all places, they understand risk vs. reward, and McGregor offers both, plus a whole lot of chit-chat.
Saturday will show if the words can be backed up by action.
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