One of the most highly anticipated fights of the past 10 years and definitely the most anticipated trilogy in UFC history, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier are going at it for the third time. One of the big narratives is if Conor still “has it” or if he’s even to be considered amongst the division’s elite. Many are calling for him to take a step down in competition, some even saying to retire from the sport altogether. A lot of people are saying if he loses, he’ll have a career trajectory like Mike Tyson after losing to Holyfield back to back. I believe Conor’s career is more akin to Oscar De La Hoya.
Let me explain. Both came into the fight game as young, well-spoken fighters with fan-friendly styles and a whole country behind them. They eventually became arguably the top pound-for-pound fighters in the game and a top pay-per-view attraction. They both reached a bit of an inflection point though. Oscar was undefeated until he fought Felix Trinidad, arguably the other top pound for pound boxer, and he was never the same. He was always a big pay-per-view attraction but spent about a decade alternating wins and losses serving as a springboard for the next generation of pay-per-view stars. Oscar eventually transitioned to promoting fights with Golden Boy Promotions promoting massive fights, including those by his rival Floyd Mayweather. Conor seems to be on that path already.
Conor McGregor is easily the biggest fighter in the world. He’s set numerous pay per view records and has gotten as big of a fighter could be. Conor became a top pound per pound fighter when he captured belts in two weight classes. When he fought Floyd Mayweather, he started McGregor Promotions and started a decline of sorts. After that, McGregor lost to Khabib, beat Cerrone, then lost to Poirier. People are questioning Conor’s motivation in that sport and whether he’s in it to win or in it for the money. Like Oscar, Conor’s getting more involved with business than fighting itself and it shows.
Where is Conor going from here? It’s yet to be seen. Saturday is the biggest indicator of where he goes from here. If he wins against Poirier, he’s right back to the top of the heap fighting for belts and taking on the biggest challenges again. If he loses, he’ll continue to have one foot in the cage and one foot out, likely looking for the next big pay-per-view star to fight like when Oscar fought Mayweather and Pacquiao in 2007 and 2008.
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