The legend of Madison Square Garden continues.
The arena dubbed “The World’s Most Famous Arena” has hosted a myriad of historical events throughout its lifetime since the doors opened in 1968. Hosting hundreds of concerts and sporting events each year, MSG has been a destination of crowning achievement for entertainers and athletes alike. The building is filled with rich history, including the “Fight of the Century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in 1971, which laid the foundation for combat sports greatness inside the Garden. UFC 205 on November 12, 2016, will be forever etched into the history of the building as the UFC’s first event at the venue in the promotion’s twenty-three-year existence.
In 1997, the sport of mixed martial arts became illegal in the state of New York. Nineteen years later, the state has opened its arms after the UFC and the Fertitta brothers led a charge to make the sport legal again. It wasn’t easy, as they had to overcome corruption from the culinary union and the New York State Assembly, particularly, former speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, who refused to even allow the vote of legalizing mixed martial arts to become an item. Silver would be found guilty on multiple federal charges of corruption in December of 2015, which all but immediately led to the legalization of the sport just a few months later. Despite the frustrations of dealing with crooked politicians throughout the years, the heartache and struggle were well worth the wait.
On a year that would host the promotion’s bicentennial pay-per-view event, UFC 200, only the entry into New York could generate significantly more buzz. Credit that to the allure of hosting an event at Madison Square Garden for the first time, a promise of three championship fights, a host of fan-favorite fighters, and a certain Irishman on the marquee looking to make promotional history by becoming the first simultaneous two-division champion.
Conor McGregor or “Conor McTwoBelts” as he affectionately dubbed himself during the promotion of the fight against Eddie Alvarez, cemented his legacy in the record books on Saturday night. Only two fighters in UFC history have won titles in multiple divisions. BJ Penn, who held the Lightweight and Welterweight Championships, and Randy Couture who held light heavyweight and heavyweight titles, although neither did so simultaneously. Conor McGregor became the UFC Featherweight Champion at UFC 194 by knocking Jose Aldo off his throne in a mere thirteen seconds. From that moment, he set his sights on replicating a feat he accomplished under the Cage Warriors banner – hold the Featherweight and Lightweight titles at the same time. On Saturday night, it was mission accomplished.
Eddie Alvarez was arguably the toughest fighter to date to share the cage with Conor McGregor. Known for his hard-nosed, gritty style of fighting, Alvarez is the type of fighter who will take anyone into the deep end of the pool to see what they’re truly made of. His crowning achievement would come earlier this summer during International Fight Week when he absolutely starched former champ Rafael dos Anjos in the first round. Possessing solid striking power and perhaps the best wrestling ability of any opponent that McGregor has faced thus far, many thought Alvarez would expose holes in McGregor’s game. Throughout the build-up to the fight, it appeared Alvarez was on par with McGregor’s mind games that have derailed his opponents in the past before they even entered the cage. Just as Alvarez would make Dos Anjos look rather pedestrian earlier this summer, McGregor would do the same, and then some on Saturday night to Alvarez.
The fight was never close.
From the call of “Let’s get it on,” McGregor took the center of the cage and would never relinquish control of the Octagon. With his patient stalking of Alvarez who circled on the outside, McGregor would begin to pick apart the now-former lightweight champion. The Irishman would drop Alvarez with a stiff left hand early in the round, which seemed as if it surprised him more than anything, as he immediately popped back up to his feet and appeared no worse for wear. Despite his best poker face, Alvarez would be caught again with another left-hand moments later. The third left hand would follow shortly after stuffed takedowns by McGregor, sending Alvarez to the canvas again. This time, McGregor would attempt to end the fight, by following his opponent to the canvas to land additional ground and pound punches. Careful to pick his shots wisely and not spend too much energy, time would expire in the opening round before Conor could find a finishing blow. McGregor’s dual-championship run started off to the tune of a 10-8 first round.
Heading into the second round, one would feel the gameplan to wrestle surely would jump to the forefront for Alvarez. The only problem with that strategy? McGregor’s takedown defense was perfect. Pundits who were unimpressed with McGregor’s takedown defense of Nate Diaz in their second bout would state Alvarez brings a whole different type of wrestling ability, and they would be correct. However, on the night, McGregor’s work ethic would shine as he stuffed every attempt by Alvarez. If Eddie couldn’t get the fight to the mat, it would only be a matter of time before McGregor would land another big punch to put the fight in jeopardy, and that would come around the 2-minute mark of the second round. McGregor even added in a taunt of putting both hands behind his back while sticking his chin out towards Alvarez. A beautiful three-punch combo would spell the end of the contest and a historic moment so big that only Madison Square Garden could contain would be created. Conor McGregor made history as only he could, and it continued into his epic post-fight speech with Joe Rogan.
As Big John McCarthy raised McGregor’s hand while Bruce Buffer’s voice filled the arena, Conor was yelling at Dana and looking around at anyone else in the cage that could have been responsible for not having two belts at the ready for him to celebrate with inside the cage. “Where the f*ck is my second belt? I’ve already got this one! Where’ the second one at? 4.2 Billion this company was sold for! Go backstage and grab that f***** belt from somewhere!” As McGregor continued on about his opponents not being on his level, it would be the near-apology for his actions that would put an exclamation point on the evening.
“I’ve spent a lot of time Joe, slaying everybody in the company. Backstage I’m starting fights off everybody. I’ve ridiculed everyone on the roster. And I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to take this chance to apologize…to absolutely nobody! The double champ does what the f*** he wants!”
Scrambling to rectify the missing belt situation, Dana would arrive with a second belt as Conor delivered the epic line, which we would later come to find out was Tyron Woodley’s belt. Photo ops and celebration on top of the cage with both belts commenced. The dream scenario for the UFC and WME-IMG was realized. Conor bless.
Fight of the Night was a draw…right?
While Conor McGregor made history in the main event of the evening, it would be the co-main event that would earn Fight of the Night honors. The Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley and second-ranked challenger, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson put on a show to be remembered. Wonderboy has dismantled his opponents throughout his UFC run with his wide karate stance and lighting fast kicks that seemingly come at his opponents out of nowhere. Tyron Woodley has dismantled his opponents in the UFC by a different tune, with aggressive and powerful punching, backed up with a strong wrestling base.
The fight created an interesting clash of styles between the two men. Thompson has shown in his previous fights, an underrated ability to defend against takedowns, which comes from his training with his brother-in-law, Chris Weidman. We did not know, however, how well Tyron Woodley would be able to defend the unique striking from Wonderboy. Woodley began to reveal some of his secrets of this training camp less than 24 hours before the fight. In his own vlog series, “Champ Camp” and other official UFC pre-fight documentaries, Woodley was shown training with Sage Northcutt, who is another UFC star with a background it point-based karate fighting. Some were unimpressed as Sage is not nearly as unique as Wonderboy on the feet and the betting lines in Vegas still saw Thompson as the favorite to win the bout. However, Woodley would reveal he brought in many other key names to train with such as Raymond Daniels and Chris Spang, who helped him become “overly prepared” to see the kicks from Wonderboy coming. The preparation was successful because Woodley blocked any head kick attempt from Wonderboy, and defended his flashier techniques very well. Thompson’s success would largely come from the constant pressure and the unknown of what was coming next, which ultimately evolved quickly into a high-stakes game of chess.
The scoring of the bout would cause an uproar on social media. The first round was largely Woodley’s after catching a kick from Thompson, completing a takedown, and continuing to control the challenger on the ground for a majority of the round, while busting open Wonderboy’s nose. The next two rounds would easily be seen in the favor of Wonderboy, with heavy pressure and keeping the champion backing up against the cage while landing more strikes. The fourth round was the most dominant round of the entire fight. Woodley hurt Wonderboy with a hard punch that sent him to the canvas and followed up with hard ground and pound. The fight was very close to being stopped, but Thompson survived the onslaught. When Woodley accepted he wasn’t going to finish his opponent from strikes, he took advantage of an opening and locked in a very deep guillotine choke, which was locked in for nearly a minute. Wonderboy would not tap and eventually worked his way out of the attempt. Frustration and exhaustion set in for Woodley, who would end the round on the bottom with Thompson in his guard, however, the round was a clear 10-8 on the scorecards, or at least should have been scored as such. The fifth round was tight, but more closely resembled the second and third rounds, which were in favor of Thompson.
A majority of the media scoring the bout saw it as a 47-47 draw or in favor of Woodley 48-47. The official decision would read a majority draw with two scores of 47-47 and a 48-47 in favor of Woodley. There was some drama initially as it was first communicated a split decision by Bruce Buffer. As Joe Rogan began his post-fight interview with Woodley, the pair were approached and told to pump the brakes on the interview, which upset Woodley because he feared they were about to reverse the decision to Thompson. Corrections were made to annouce the bout as a draw, and while Woodley didn’t lose his belt, he didn’t earn a notch in the win column with the draw.
When a picture of the official scorecard surfaced, more confusion set in. Judge Doug Crosby scored the first round a 10-8 for Woodley, a round that was dominated by the champion but did not come close to a finish of Thompson. He then inexplicably scored the fourth round a 10-9, which was a round that was home to multiple near-finishes by the champion. Despite the questionable scoring that caused us to arrive at the decision, Woodley retains the title, and neither men walk away with a loss on their record, which is a fair and fitting result to the battle that took place.
We’ve gotta run that one back…immediately.
Joanna Continues her Reign
The co-co-main event of the evening showcased the best of the best in the strawweight division as Joanna Jedrzejczyk defended her title against Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Two ladies that have a history that dates back to their amateur careers in their home country of Poland, made everyone aware of why they were both undefeated coming into Saturday night. Joanna largely dominated the first three rounds of the fight, looking every bit like the dominant champion she has been since winning the belt at UFC 185. Karolina would then prove she wasn’t going to accept the previous fifteen minutes as a foregone conclusion by rocking the champion with a hard punch that caused Joanna to go into survival mode. The fourth round would be Karolina’s only shining moment, with Jedrzejczyk recovering in the final frame to win the last round and retain her title.
There is a certain level of dominance among champions in the UFC. Demetrious Johnson is the clear number one pound-for-pound fighter, having completely dominated the flyweight division. Joanna Jedrzejczyk is on that same path as it relates to the strawweight division. Dominick Cruz means the same to the bantamweight division, and if Jon Jones can manage to get his career back in line, will mean the same to the light heavyweights. Some fighters are just clearly better than anyone else in their division, truly in a league of their own. While Conor McGregor holds two titles at different weight classes, he has yet to defend his Featherweight belt, despite entering the cage three times since winning it. He has shown he can not only win against but dominate some of the biggest names in the sport. Only time will tell if he will leave a lasting legacy of defending those titles as the names mentioned above.
While UFC 205 was a night of champions, it was also a night a former champion called it a career. Miesha Tate decided to announce her retirement after suffering a loss to Raquel Pennington in the opening bout of the main card. For the fighter who seemingly would never get to wrap the gold around her waist after coming up short against Ronda Rousey twice during her dominating run, would see that dream realized when she choked out Holly Holm. Perhaps more should have seen it coming, considering Tate nearly retired before Holm defeated Rousey which opened the door for her chance at gold. After losing her strap to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200, her retirement was coming sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, Tate’s legacy in the women’s bantamweight division has long been defined well before the result on Saturday night. Congratulations on a great career, Cupcake.
The UFC’s first trip to Madison Square Garden was one for the ages. A completely stacked card filled with exciting fights on the prelims and a couple of spectacular finishes kept the crowd rocking all night long. While history was made with Pay-Per-View numbers and a record-breaking gate, perhaps it was perfect timing despite the corruption that was overcome, to have the event take place at the perfect time, with the perfect superstars in place to leave a lasting image.
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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