There is no measurement applicable to see just how far Conor McGregor’s mental warfare successfully takes him. Even the most collected of fighter’s have been stung by his spit and wit. It is simply due to him is no longer being just a fighter, but a subject, a walking piece of his own thought out destiny and living figure of stardom. At the same time, as a man, he comes off as though he is untouched by the push and pull of MMA fans. Whether he brings them to a visceral rage or passionate defense McGregor is clear in his vision – to attain a never before seen legacy, so illustrated in his own mind that he has tunnel vision. In many ways, the legacy he sees been unraveling with every fight whether the evidence comes in the form of numbers, performances or plain trash-talk. Even naysayers must agree with his ability rivet an entire sport to its core when his stands victorious with his arms in the air, when he is on the flat of his back in defeat and when he says he will do the absurd and challenge to become a two-weight world champion in the UFC.
But McGregor still has plenty of skeptics – many of whom vehemently question the legitimacy of his path to the top of the sport. The new age of the UFC feels absolutely fuelled by the traction of their one and never before seen star. A precedent that many would argue comes with the kingdom he has earned or as some see it handpicked for his rise. Either way, this path has led him to Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight crown – another kingdom he looks to rule with his deadly left hand.
But this challenge could be where his enormous efforts find themselves daunted. Facing The Underground King is with utter absolution his most dangerous test to date. Perhaps that is merely the theme of the 28-year-old – outdoing himself. But this challenge is not one that will be aided to victory by his absorbing and invaluable ability to dig inside his opponent’s mind. This challenge will not be defined by the track record of opponent’s he has left behind in the featherweight division. It has the potential to be a test that asks if he can emerge of a potential nightmare 5 rounds, or even less.
The Irishman’s strong contingent of fans would be making a grave mistake to sleep on the danger Alvarez presents to McGregor at UFC 205. It would be a failure of perspective to measure the deeply layered and rigorous career of the Underground King solely upon his UFC appearances. The entire promotion’s roster understands the lucrative gain in fighting their company’s star. But Alvarez has made it clear that financial gain wasn’t his main interest in fighting the Irishman. Instead it was a point at power; a need to uncover the myth of ‘Santa Clause’; it was about challenging a widespread norm of lifting McGregor onto a pedestal. Otherwise, he would have been more apt to re-negotiating his contract prior to this bout (despite being ridiculed for it by the Irishman himself).
“I’m not taking on Top 15, so I would ask Dana White to give me an easier fight like Conor McGregor,” said the champion after definitively beating Rafael Dos Anjos.
“I deserve that, I’ve been fighting the best guys, so I would like a gimme fight, so Conor, I more than welcome that.”
Alvarez is a man who doesn’t bask in legacy, the flash of his golden championship belt or the enticing power of vocalizing his worth. He is the Underground Kind for a reason and that reason has, time and time again, been proven in and outside of the UFC. One his most monumental career streaks was under the Bellator banner where he boasts being a two-time champion and the only fighter who has held belts in both promotion. On top of that, Alvarez has also been champion at every promotion he’s fought for. So, those who underestimate his achievements throughout the world are simply narrow-minded.
His second battle against Michael Chandler was a violent and gritty manifestation of a nail biting, down to the wire, dogfight. It is a trademark bout that reflects the adversity he has faced in his career over and over. In many ways, it is also a much greater trademark than the one McGregor endured against Nate Diaz at UFC 202. That fight in particular was praised by many as perhaps one of the ‘greatest the UFC has hosted’ or ‘fight of the century’. But in comparison, Alvarez’s track record measures up to that bout faultlessly, perhaps even succeeds it. Although such volatile battles like the ones the lightweight champion has experienced can eventually hinder him at 32 years of age, it will be his undoubtable edge against McGregor.
Alvarez – like many fighters before him – is overshadowed by McGregor’s venture for legacy, despite holding the championship belt. Maybe this is a marketing tool, maybe it’s a lack of attention – but Alvarez’s storied career speaks for itself. The arduous competition he has faced has been nightmarish and top class for years. And yet, he has still emerged resilient, efficient and as dangerous as ever even if his UFC days have come late in his career. This epic battle headlining UFC 205 has the potential to be McGregor’s worst nightmare; even though many deemed his second bout against Nate Diaz as such. Simply, Alvarez simply cannot be discounted.