Chapter Five: the Defeat of Conor McGregor, Football Manager, the Joy of Skipping and OJ Simpson as the Terminator
My thoughts on Conor McGregor and where he goes after defeat to Dustin Poirier, how Football Manager should add a Director of Football Manager mode, how being silly made me smile and a random film fact that makes me laugh.
I thoroughly enjoyed the two fights of UFC 257 I was able to see. I didn’t know too much about Michael Chandler heading into the event and, once I saw the size difference, I expected Dan Hooker to beat him quite convincingly. Watching the fight in the shower as I got ready for work, I couldn’t believe what I saw, as Chandler knocked out Hooker before I’d even soaped myself up. His somersault off the cage was spectacular, and his post-match promo, with its echoes of Ric Flair’s famous ‘Tear In My Eye’ interview after Royal Rumble 1992, ticked all the boxes for me. Entertaining, decorated and charismatic, Chandler is going to be an interesting character to follow in the coming months and years.
The main draw for the evening was the rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, and what a scrap it was. Conor McGregor looked strong early on, but failed to close the distance after rocking Poirier, a mistake Poirier did not repeat when he returned the favour moments later. As Poirier, humbled and humiliated in the first encounter six years ago, unleashed a flurry of violent, targeted blows to the head of the biggest star of the sport, the excitement rose within me, knowing what was about to happen yet barely able to believe it. As Herb Dean stepped between the two fighters, McGregor was done, unable to defend himself. Poirier had his redemption, he had his vengeance and, finally, he had the respect he has deserved for so long.
In the aftermath of the result, many have proclaimed McGregor finished, saying that his hunger has gone, that the fire is out, and that, should he continue fighting, he should focus on money fights, like the rematch with Nate Diaz. The narrative is that he will never again reach the top of the division, but I’m not sure I see it that way. Unlike boxing, where a defeat tends to mean the fighter isn’t seen as an elite fighter anymore, MMA fighters taste defeat far more regularly. The sheer range of styles and approaches means that a defeat to one fighter does not mean they cannot beat them again. Poirier himself proved that on Saturday night, as has McGregor previously, coming back from a submission defeat to beat Nate Diaz in their rematch. Defeat to Poirier, even in such devastating fashion, does not mean the end of McGregor’s title dreams. Indeed, one of the most celebrated championship victories of all time was Michael Bisping overcoming seven defeats to win the UFC Middleweight title, and he did that with one eye, when outside opportunities were distracting him from training. If Bisping can do it, then so can Conor McGregor.
The question is whether McGregor has the hunger and drive to fight back and achieve such a feat. Where Bisping had never previously been a UFC Champion, McGregor is the first man to ever be a simultaneous two-weight champion, and he has a hundred million other disadvantages that could work against him. When the professional dreams are accomplished, unthinkable riches have been earned and there is a young family waiting in a mansion at home, ready to sail on the yacht in the sun, the desire to make the sacrifices and take the necessary health risks to become a champion can easily decline. His first MMA knockout defeat, in addition to the technical knockout suffered to Floyd Mayweather in boxing, could make the risk to McGregor’s future health seem unnecessary. During his rise, he famously declared his plan to be, “Get in, get rich, get out,’ and if he walked away now, he does so having achieved all of his original dreams and then some. Of course, dreams change over time, and McGregor is as able to change his mind as anyone.
Had he swarmed Poirier after rocking him, the odds are he’d have secured a dominant knockout victory, and those proclaiming him finished would be announcing he is the elite active fighter in the division, and that his reclaiming of the lightweight title was inevitable. One decision, to hold back instead of attack, and everything is different. Would McGregor make such a mistake in a trilogy? He learned from his defeat to Diaz, came back and won the rematch, so the only evidence we have of McGregor’s ability to ‘Win or Learn’ is that, when beaten, he learns the lessons of defeat. The other two men to inflict defeat on McGregor since he entered the UFC, Floyd Mayweather and Khabib Nurmagomedov, have declined all offers to stand across from McGregor a second time, so we cannot know if the lessons from those defeats have been learned. Based on the evidence available, the McGregor we know would come back stronger, but the confidence Poirier has gained from such a victory, and his ability to withstand McGregor’s strongest shots, would also be a huge factor. It’s a fascinating prospect.
The key to any McGregor success is activity, something he has been denied in recent years. While Georges St-Pierre and Dominic Cruz were able to return from multi-year lay-offs at a similar level to their previous fights, they are very much the exception to the rule. McGregor admitted himself he lacked sharpness, he needs cage-time, in order to reach his elite level again. Unfortunately for him, MMA is not like boxing, where someone like Tyson Fury can fight a couple of journeymen in warm-up fights to sharpen his skills and hone his fitness. McGregor, should he return, would be fighting one of the most dangerous men in the world, with a multitude of skills and approaches to victory. You can’t just dodge punches in the Octagon, you have to avoid kicks, grapples, takedowns, submissions, judo, karate, sambo and so many other possibilities in addition to the fists. This is why the trilogy fight with Nate Diaz, a man he defeated in his previous encounter and who has had even less activity than McGregor, makes the most sense to me. It is a strong challenge, yet an achievable one that will bring McGregor closer to his best. Another option is Tony Ferguson, who has suffered defeats in his two previous fights, but is respected enough and unique enough to bring McGregor to a higher standard – especially given his propensity for getting punched in the face. Indeed, there may never be a better time to fight these two men, both of whom would also serve the purpose of bringing in the PPV buys.
It’s too soon for the Poirier rematch, in my opinion. Poirier deserves to, and likely will, fight for the title in his next fight, perhaps against Charles Oliveira or Michael Chandler. If I was Dana White, I’d be going with McGregor vs Diaz next, with Michael Chandler vs Justin Gaethje facing off, while Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira fight for the undisputed title. I’d then be putting the winner of Poirier-Oliveira against the winner of Chandler-Gaethje for the title, while squaring off McGregor against Tony Ferguson. After that, I’d be doing the winner of McGregor-Ferguson against whoever emerged as the champ. If McGregor was to win those two eminently-winnable fights, he’d be sharp, he’d be focused, and he’d be poised to avenge his defeat against Poirier, and reclaim the crown. If.
As a psychology student, there are few people more fascinating in the sport than Conor McGregor. His rise from poverty to legend is one of the greatest stories of all time, yet it was his response to the first Nate Diaz defeat that was the most interesting, the way he broke down his defeat, reassessed his game, came back and fought a fight so different from what he had fought before, a fight many thought he was incapable of fighting. He then went and won the UFC Lightweight title in his following fight. I certainly wouldn’t bet against him repeating history, and I look forward to watching where he goes from here.
I was talking to my mate, Dinga, about Football Manager before, and how I used to love playing it, but became very bored and stopped playing after they made it so that opponents figured out your tactics after a while. The fun of Football manager was never in actually managing the team, not for me. What I enjoyed was rebuilding a club. I liked signing and selling the players, I liked sorting the feeder clubs, I enjoyed engaging with the media, but the matches themselves I found boring. The best thing about the old Championship Manager games was that matches themselves took about two minutes; nowadays, a single match on Football Manager takes about fifteen, and it’s just dull.
What I’d like to play is a new game mode within it – Director of Football Manager. In my head, this new game is exactly like Football Manager – you take the job at a club, you rebuild the squad and the backroom staff, you organise stadium expansions, feeder clubs, commercial opportunities and so on, just like Football Manager. The difference is, in Director of Football Manager, you also employ a manager or head coach to run the team, taking care of training, tactics and matchday. It’s up to you who you hire, with different managers having different styles, skills and media techniques – some would be like Pochettino, who adapts well to having a Director of Football, whereas others would be like Rafa Benitez, in constant battle with those further up the food chain. How you negotiate these relationships – when you hire, when you fire, how much money you allow them to have in the transfer market – would determine your success, as well as, obviously, how well the team ultimately does. Negotiating with the owner would also be a key factor – for more money, for stadium developments, to explain your decisions and persuade him to trust you rather than hiring Daniel Levy or someone else. All the fun of Football Manager, without any of the pesky matchday management.
I wouldn’t make this a separate game – it is, essentially, the same game but you ‘Go On Holiday’ for every single match. I don’t think it would be too hard to add it as a new game mode, and I hope Sports Interactive take this idea on board in future games. I’m too old to spend hours deciding how fictional players should train and whether someone should make forward runs or hold their positions. I just want the fun of the rest of the game, fun that would be much faster and more engaging. Director of Football Manager, like garlic bread, is the future. Let’s hope that future comes around soon.
I have to do weekly Covid tests as part of my role as a support worker, an experience which is never pleasant, but nowhere near as bad as you build it up in your head beforehand. After taking my test yesterday, I asked my partner’s daughter if she wanted to go to the postbox with me, as her brother was doing his reading practice with my partner and I thought it would be better for him to have distraction-free one-to-one time. She accepted the offer, and we set off on the two-hundred metres or so walk to the postbox.
At least, it was meant to be a walk. The little tinker made me skip the whole way there and back! I got quite embarrassed at first, as it’s quite a busy road we had to walk down, so there were lots of cars and traffic going by. After a little way, though, I stopped feeling embarrassed and just enjoyed it. After getting home, tired from the exertions, I had a smile on my face the rest of the day. It’s wonderful how the wee ‘uns remind us all of the importance of just having fun, and how magical it can be just to be silly. Nothing makes a child – or anyone, really – happier than a grown-up coming down to their world and engaging on their terms. Joy is infectious and, in these testing times, it’s worth grabbing every bit you can, even if it means skipping to the postbox while those passing-by have a giggle.
I think that’ll do for this chapter. I’ve nothing much more to add, really. My FPL team is doing well, though we’re a long way off the title. Newcastle continue to be rubbish, though I have a sneaky feeling we won’t lose to Leeds later. Work continues to be work and life continues to be good.
I’ll leave you with a random fact that makes me chuckle: OJ Simpson was the studio’s first choice to play the Terminator, but director James Cameron rejected the idea, on the grounds that OJ Simpson was too nice, and wouldn’t be believable as a killing machine.
Take care of yourselves, and thank you for reading.
Song of the Chapter:
Fall Back Down
Quote of the Chapter:
“As long as you’ve worked as hard as you can, you should be at peace with the result, whether it goes in your favour or not. Luck also plays a bigger part than we’d all care to admit, so don’t be too hard on yourself when you lose and don’t go overboard with patting yourself on the back when you win. That’s been my approach from the start and it will continue to be until the end.”
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