In just over a week’s time, we will finally see Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor collide at UFC 194 for the UFC featherweight title. Both men have endured long tough training camp’s and are ready physically but who is ready mentally?
We asked sports psychologist James Barraclough to break down the mental aspect of this fight. James is a lecturer at The Manchester College and is also the author of The MMA Psychology Manual and has been involved in the psychology of MMA since 2003 and has worked with several elite fighters including two world champions and James says this fight will come down to who is ready not just physically but more importantly mentally.
‘At elite level it’s probably mostly mental as physical/technical/tactical tend to balance out, depends on fighters strengths/weaknesses ie ground game/stand up. It’s how fighters deal with mental factors on the
night ie concentration, confidence and dealing with nerves, that’s what it could come down to’.
In the build up to this fight, McGregor has constantly insulted and taunted Aldo but will this benefit McGregor in any way?
‘Trash talking fighters can have positive or negative effect depending on the person on the receiving end and how they handle it. It can unsettle some fighters, others can laugh it off and see through it as mind games. Self-confidence would be massive here. Any insecurity could cause trash talk to be more effective. This would probably need to be managed effectively by Aldo’s team’.
McGregor has constantly stated his mind is bullet proof and many people have agreed that McGregor’s mindset is what separate’s him the most from other athletes but could it also be his downfall?
‘I think an aura of invincibility can be good as it can put doubts in the other fighters mind. Mike Tyson & Muhammad Ali were masters at this. This is a danger of being over confident and believing your own hype which could potentially make you too arrogant and consequently become a bit lazy and complacent. Therefore, you still need to respect your opponent in private if not in public’.
We have seen in McGregor’s previous fights he likes to talk and taunt his opponent’s inside the octagon, is this another mental strategy and more importantly is it effective?
‘Talking to your opponent may be effective again dependent on your opponent’s mindset. It can undermine them if they’re vulnerable. An MMA coach I worked with was expert at this from the corner, constantly talking to his own fighter but in a way that chipped away at the other fighters confidence’.
Would you consider McGregor’s mindset the strongest we have seen in the UFC?
‘I would certainly agree that McGregor is mentally tough, he talks the talk but also walks the walk! I think being arrogant is excusable if you’re that good. However, as I mentioned above he needs to ensure that he doesn’t start to slacken off. An example I’ve used in the past is rocky 3 the first time he fights clubber Lang and takes victory for granted and loses! I know it’s fiction but art imitates life’.
James says McGregor’s mind games could be the extra 1% difference in him unifying the UFC featherweight title and uses Tyson Fury’s antics as a perfect example.
‘Whats very topical now is how Tyson Fury got into Klitschko’s head last week. There was the bat man stuff, and then making them change the ring and Klitschko not being able to wrap his hands in private. There can be a tiny fraction of 1% difference between winning & losing so top athletes use whatever they can, what Dave Brailsford at British cycling called marginal gains. That could be the difference in this fight’.
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Conor McGregor has ‘Every intention of fighting in 2018’
Despite being inactive since his historic boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August, Conor McGregor is never far from the headlines. Recently his out of cage antics have got people questioning if he’ll ever be back.
Thankfully the UFC lightweight champion appears to have cleared up any rumors about his fighting career.
Speaking to his sponsor Betsafe, the “Notorious” Conor McGregor said “My focus is getting back into the right ring or octagon. 2017 was historic. I have transcended both the sport of MMA and boxing. At this stage of my career, as it has been for the majority of my UFC career, potential opponents must lobby for fights with me. We could see Conor McGregor anywhere. I run the fight game, the fashion game, the whiskey game or whatever the next business endeavor might be”.
McGregor added, “I have every intention of fighting in 2018 if my compensation and business development endeavors accurately reflect my influence on combat sports.”
This comes just two weeks after UFC President Dana White told reporters “Conor might never fight again. The guy’s got $100 (expletive) million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working.”
White went on to say “Try to get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank. Money changes everything with a lot of people.”
White also told reporters that the “Notorious one”, “can’t be paid enough money” and that he is “worth every penny and more.” McGregor’s recent statement suggests he knows that and won’t be back till his demands are met.
The UFC lightweight division has been stalled in the absence of the champion McGregor and now the interim champion Tony Ferguson has undergone surgery. The UFC has been known the remove belts from fighters who have been delayed for extended amounts of time, this would be highly unlikely with the popularity of McGregor.
Will Conor McGregor ever fight again?
The future of the UFC’s biggest ever star is in doubt. But it was also never a secret. “The Notorious” Conor McGregor always made his intentions clear, “Get in. Get rich. Get out”. And now he’s rich, very rich.
Get in. Get rich. Get out.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 12, 2014
In 2008 at the age of 20 a baby-faced, clean-shaven McGregor stated his ambitions for his MMA career after just 5 professional fights. He said “My dream is to be world champion in the UFC, have more money than I know what to do with, and have a great life for my kids, my grandkids, everyone in my family, everyone that’s come up with me. That’s my dream”.
Along his journey, McGregor has never kept his intentions to himself. At first, it was to get into the UFC. Then it was the featherweight belt. Then it was to replicate what he had done in his previous promotion, to become the UFC’s first simultaneous two-weight world champion.
The issue now is that McGregor has achieved everything he has set out to do. From world titles to being a multi-millionaire, he’s done it all. And now there is no statement of intent. No dream to chase.
Since he’s achieved everything he said he ever wanted, where does the hunger for more come from? Currently, it doesn’t appear to be there.
Since the last time we saw McGregor with gloves on, the charismatic Irishman has seemingly gone off the rails. There was the Bellator 187 incident in Dublin, where McGregor stormed the cage and pushed veteran referee Marc Goddard and slapped an official. But more recently the Irish Daily Mail has reported that McGregor was involved in a bar fight in his native Crumlin, where he is believed to have punched an associate of a major crime gang in Dublin. Whether this is true or not, it is still something a UFC champion and role model shouldn’t be associated with.
From the outside, McGregor’s life is more about hours spent at the club rather than the gym.
But who can blame the man for enjoying the fruits of his labor? He is acting how most 29-year-old men would if they had just received $100 million.
This is his life’s work paying off.
After McGregor’s loss at UFC 196, he wanted an immediate rematch against Nate Diaz at the same weight. It showed us he’s a true martial artist with the heart of a lion. It showed his desperation to get that win back and prove he is the better competitor. And when he won, he proved all his doubters wrong as he walked on crutches through the corridor of the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas screaming “doubt me now”.
But after his loss to Mayweather Jr., there has seemingly been no desire to arrange a fight to get back in the win column.
It’s easy to forget during this period of inactivity that McGregor is one of the most active guys in MMA. From UFC 194 to UFC 205, McGregor competed in 4 fights at 3 different weight classes against high caliber opponents inside the space of 11 months. The truth is he deserves a well-earned rest.
However, in a recent media scrum, Dana White confirmed that Conor was looking to fight before the end of the year but had been pulled from UFC 219 as punishment for the incident at Bellator 187.
Dana also told the reporters in the room “Conor might never fight again. The guys got $100 million. I’ve got guys that made less than that and were lawyers and went to school their whole life and quit working”.
White also said, “Try and get up and get punched in the face every day when you’ve got $100 million in the bank”.
The two statements from Dana are very contradicting as he isn’t sure McGregor will ever fight again, but at the same time he wanted to fight on December 30th. Maybe Dana is struggling to pick apart the mind of Conor McGregor as much as we are.
There are plenty of reasons why Conor should never come back.
Not only is he set for life but he’s also healthy. McGregor is extremely conscious about his health and has mentioned several times throughout his career about the importance of keeping your brain healthy.
But there are plenty of reasons why he should he come back.
He loves to fight and he loves making money. He needs to capitalize on that whilst he can.
McGregor doesn’t have to settle for one big payday, he has matchups waiting for him such as Ferguson, Diaz, and GSP. There is always the welterweight belt and his Croke Park dream. And the door is open for a return to boxing, especially with fighters like De La Hoya, Pacquiao, and Malignaggi calling him out.
He’s also at the peak in terms of age and physique and in terms of power. Where he has the whole MMA world on strings with every small move he makes.
There is no knowing if McGregor will ever fight again. If McGregor returns to his usual self, he will likely be back in the first quarter of 2018, where he will fight frequently. But as time ticks on and there is no fight announcement McGregor may be stripped of his belt never to be seen again.
He got in. He got rich. Is he out? Let us know.
Manny Pacquiao Hints at Possible 2018 Fight with Conor McGregor
Here we go again. Just when we thought Conor McGregor was set on a return to the octagon, boxing legend Manny Pacquiao has seemingly called out the charismatic Irishman with his latest Instagram post.
It appears the current senator of the Philippines also wants a trip on the money train that is Conor McGregor, as he sent out this cryptic message on his Instagram.
The caption reads “Happy thanksgiving! Stay fit my friend. #realboxingmatch #2018 @thenotoriousmma”.
This comes a week after retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya claimed he has been secretly training for a bout with “The Notorious One.” Speaking on ‘Golden Boy Radio with Tattoo and the Crew’, De La Hoya claimed “I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor out in two rounds”.
After his most recent loss to Australian boxer Jeff Horn, retirement looked imminent for ‘Pac-Man’. But a shot at McGregor and the pay day his name brings, appears to be far too tempting.
McGregor loves to test himself and he loves money. So he will be licking his lips just thinking about the opportunity to get back in the ring against a high calibre opponent like Pacquiao. Not just to make money, but to prove his doubters wrong after his boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
McGregor’s immediate future looks set to be a fight with Tony Ferguson in 2018. But after that who knows what the future holds for the UFC lightweight champion.
If McGregor’s next fight is a boxing match with Pacquiao, then it could spell the end of his title reign. As Ferguson likes to say it’s ‘defend or vacate’ time.
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