IT’S BEEN AN interesting 24 hours and we’ve been here before.
Conor McGregor flew out to Los Angeles on Monday morning for his UFC lightweight title bout against Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196 in Las Vegas on Saturday, 5 March.
However, on Monday evening I began to pick up on some rumours that claimed dos Anjos had picked up an injury. Later that night, Conor’s management team contacted me and confirmed that dos Anjos had broken his foot. He wouldn’t be able to fight.
Apparently he sustained the injury in training last Friday. I assume he gave himself the weekend to see if he could put weight on it, but obviously it didn’t heal. On Tuesday morning, a few other names were put forward as potential replacements. The response from Conor was as you’d expect: “It doesn’t matter, they’re all the same.”
I did find it somewhat interesting, however, that Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar both turned it down. I seem to recall them insisting quite recently that they were willing to fight Conor “any time and any place”. Obviously they forgot to mention that 5 March in Las Vegas was an exception.
Back in September, Conor said something significant at the UFC’s ‘Go Big’ press conference. He told every contender from 145lbs to 170lbs to stay ready because it’s not uncommon for his opponents to pull out. There’s a pattern emerging that one fighter pulls out, another fighter steps in and then it’s passed off as being a short-notice fight. It’s not.
Six of Conor’s last 12 opponents have pulled out. Even if a certain fighter is not announced as Conor’s original opponent, every guy who’s in some way in the mix to face him in the future should be staying prepared, because there’s a 50% chance there’ll be an opening.
If you want to fight Conor McGregor, get ready — even when someone else has got the gig. There’s only a handful of names who could have received the call, so they should have been ready. There’s a lesson to be learned here for any guy who genuinely wants the opportunity.
In a time when so many fighters are unwilling to compete due to a wide variety of little issues — not enough notice, minor injuries etc. — Conor’s mindset is unique. He could have walked away from this without consequences but that never came into consideration.
In order to widen the search for an opponent, he committed to fight as high as 170lbs and that was it. That’s two weight classes up from his last fight, which only happened a couple of months ago. It’s a mindset that hasn’t been seen before and I doubt we’ll see it again.
I’m sure people have heard me saying this before, but we’ve never focused too heavily on opponents at Straight Blast Gym and this situation is yet another justification of that philosophy. When this happened previously, we went from fighting a kickboxer to a wrestler. Now, the switch is from a stocky grappler with some hard kicks to a tall boxer. You must be ready for every type of opponent.
As for Nate, if you look at his last fight — when he beat Michael Johnson by decision — Michael comes from a great team but he is quite new to striking, yet he still managed to land a lot of shots. Josh Thomson badly lit Nate up when they fought in 2013.
The Diaz brothers are known for walking through shots but Nate doesn’t quite have Nick’s ability to absorb punishment. It’s a different ball-game when you face somebody who has been striking for their entire life, as opposed to a wrestler who’s still trying to develop their striking. I think it will be an early night for Nate.
We don’t know just yet what will come after next week’s fight but I personally think the fight against Rafael dos Anjos still makes sense for the summer. Having said that, things can change very quickly between now and then — as we’ve seen since the Aldo fight — so who knows what will happen in the meantime?
It’s a crazy game and it’s becoming more and more difficult to predict. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a lot of fun.