UFC’s clash of kings

Conor McGregor talks a big game, but can he deliver on his biggest night?

Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor come face to face
Who will blink first Dual featherweight champions come face to face Image Picture Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

This is the UFC fight we’ve all been waiting for.

Well, it is if you’ve been listening to UFC’s Dana White. After a year, The Notorious One Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo finally get down to it to re-unify the featherweight title in Las Vegas at 5am on Sunday morning UK time.

McGregor is the interim featherweight champion and Aldo the featherweight champion.

In one corner, you have the brash McGregor, who sees himself as the rightful owner of the throne. At his latest press conference, he pointed out it was his 15th straight fight at which he’d really been talking about taking on Aldo. During that time, he’s gone from pretender to contender to legend for many fans.

The scrap was originally due in July, before Aldo got injured. In stepped Chad Mendes, with the American duly defeated for the consolation prize title of Interim Featherweight Champion – a title McGregor understandably sees as a joke. 

“I’m the three-time World Champion,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “There aint no ‘interim’ in this. I’m a World Champion. Aldo’s a World Champion. We’re going to find out who is the unified World Champion.”

Conor McGregor taunts Jose Aldo's fans in Rio De Janeiro
You want a piece of this? The ever modest Conor McGregor taunts opposing fans Image Picture Buda Mendes/Getty Images

It’s a testament to his mental strength that McGregor has an aura of calm around him, but still can manage an unflinching, razor-sharp ability to cut people down. It’s that talent which have fans comparing him to Muhammed Ali.

The comparison can’t be dismissed, such is McGregor’s similar skill at deploying mind games as part of his arsenal. But he falls short with Ali, as he’s more of a brawler next to the boxing great’s all-round fight game. And it’s no disgrace that McGregor, like every other fighter since, can’t match Ali for his philosophy or his impact on the world in general outside the ring.

Aldo has tried dismissing McGregor’s mind games during the build up by calling his opponent “my employee.”

He stated: “Conor is one of my employees. His job is to talk, promote and sell the fight. He can talk as much as he wants. He’s making me money, so I’m happy.”

The previously reticent Aldo has come out of his shell since his feud with McGregor started, with many  in his native seeing the fight catapult the wary fighter into the hearts of UFC fans worldwide. 

As the fight gets closer, McGregor could be playing into Aldo’s hands. The more he talks, the more he believes what he says. But this is a massive fight, even for someone with McGregor’s skill, and he’ll surely need to focus on his inner calm rather than believing his usual brawling and attacking style will automatically outclass Aldo.   

Maybe it’s why McGregor said he was in a state of zen recently, and seemed to thaw the relations between himself and Aldo by bowing to his opponent after their stare down.

The bookies have him as favourite, which shows McGregor’s talk has convinced people. But those odds ignore the reality though that he’s coming up against a fighter who has lost only once in 26 fights. McGregor is unbeaten in five years, but lost twice in MMA before switching to UFC.

Aldo has beaten UFC greats such as Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar. McGregor has a perfect UFC record, but the calibre of his opponents haven’t been the same.

McGregor undoubtedly has the talent for  what he sees as his date with destiny. But it could easily be a destiny he hasn’t planned for.

Conor McGregor vs Jose Aldo is live on BT Sport 2 from 3am on Sunday.

 

 

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Loaded sports writer Pearse Corcoran has covered news, sport and entertainment for several national newspapers and radio stations in Ireland. Follow him on Twitter at @PearseCorcoran

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