Conor McGregor’s over-the-top persona isn’t for everybody. Many fight fans prefer a more subdued and sportsman like approach to fight promotion. They are few and far between, but they do exist. McGregor arrives at pre-fight press conferences with what are likely prepared lines. Many more moments are off the cuff, but it is the trash talk and machismo that draw fans to McGregor. It’s entertaining as hell, but what makes all the pre-fight talk count is how McGregor acts after a fight, especially when he loses.
McGregor has lost twice in UFC, and after both losses, McGregor was humble and provided thoughtful analysis of why he lost. In a moment where others cut from a similar cloth may begin promoting a rematch or another fight, McGregor opens up and, for a moment, appears vulnerable.
“I was inefficient with my energy,” McGregor said after losing to Nate Diaz. “Usually they crumble under those shots, but Nate took them very well.”
What McGregor was able to do here was put over and validate Diaz’s win, while taking accountability for his own shortcomings and leaving the door open for an improved performance next time out. By using the term “inefficient” rather than “ineffective” or just plain “bad” regarding his cardio, McGregor was able to tell his fans that he would do better next time. And he was right, McGregor beat Diaz by majority decision later that year.
It took a couple weeks, but McGregor was able to open up in a similar way following his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. In an Instagram post (see a detailed analysis of his statement here), McGregor went over how he saw each round of the fight play out. Similarly to the Diaz loss, McGregor was honest, but left a door open for improvement in a future fight.
“I made a critical error of abandoning my over hook at this crucial time, exposing the back, and I end up beaten fair and square,” McGregor wrote. Here, McGregor acknowledged that he made a tactical error in the fight. By acknowledging the error, it serves to excuse it and implies that he knows better and is unlikely to make the same mistake again. It gives McGregor supporters hope that he can win a rematch.
When you compare McGregor after a loss to the only other UFC fighter to approach his level of stardom, the difference is night and day. Ronda Rousey famously disappeared following her first loss to Holly Holm. When she did re-emerge, she refused to talk about the loss. Rousey would stick to “safe” media appearances such as “Ellen” where fight talk is less valued. Rousey’s star appeal wasn’t hurt when she returned a year later to fight Amanda Nunes, but fans were not behind her the way they remain behind McGregor.
McGregor is a fantastic showman and will continue to be a big star in MMA even after losing. It’s his honesty that will keep him relevant and credible when he does go over the top leading up to a fight.
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