Conor McGregor stepped on the scales during the ceremonial UFC 257 weigh-in with his flex and shout.
He then closed his eyes and tilted his head upward as if absorbing the moment. The Irishman patted her chest, folded his hands over her head, and calmly waved the sparse crowd inside the arena in applause.
His opponent, Dustin Poirier, followed and took his place on the ladder. After Poirier’s weight was announced, it was time for the last look down before two of the top lightweight weights exchanged nasty punches and kicks to separate the other from their senses.
Contrary to their stare 6 and a half years ago, which included scrambling and vitriolic screams, the two took up a fighting stance as the cameras flashed.
And then they shook hands. Poirier reached into his pocket and handed his opponent a bottle of his Poirier Louisiana hot sauce. McGregor laughed and put his arm around Poirier, and the two smiled.
Who the hell is this Conor McGregor, and what happened to the old one? You know, the one who relentlessly berated his opponents and carried a huge chip on his shoulder before every fight?
This is what happens when you are at peace with yourself. And that could result in the best version of Conor McGregor we’ve ever seen inside the Octagon.
But how did he come to this?
McGregor’s rapid rise in the sports world began when he was still a welfare man looking to find his way to success and fame.
Although he has been one of the most promising prospects to enter the UFC for some time, McGregor had to part ways with the pack.
“We’re struggling, we’re broke as a mom – uh here,” McGregor told Ariel Helwani ahead of her UFC debut against Marcus Brimage in 2013. “We all train here and don’t have a piss pot. in it. Nothing’s right for any of us. I want to start getting paid. Maybe get a nice car. I don’t even have a car yet. “
Despite all of this, he projected that he would one day be the champion and predicted how he would end his fights.
And then it happened. Again and again, McGregor sent out his opponents with bewildering ease. He would predict the round and how he would end the fight. Each proclamation was bolder than the last. And then he saw his dream come true right in front of his eyes with a punch that ended Jose Aldo’s dominating featherweight title reign and cemented his place among the stars.
But he hadn’t finished. He dared to be awesome and ultimately became the first UFC fighter to hold world titles in two divisions simultaneously. Then he took it to the next level by challenging Floyd Mayweather to a boxing match. Although he missed, he racked up over $ 30 million for his efforts.
He did it. He had it all. And then he almost gave it away because he didn’t really know what he was fighting for anymore.
Arrests, controversies and various incidents resulted in a shameful scene after McGregor’s loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. Bad blood between the two fighters spread through the crowd after the fight as McGregor fought the members of Nurmagomedov’s team inside the cage.
Fortunately, McGregor was benched for his part in the brawl. It gave him the opportunity to reflect.
After sending Donald Cerrone off with relative ease last January, McGregor finds himself facing a familiar opponent in UFC 257. But again, this is a very different version of McGregor than the one who fought Poirier in 2014.
It’s almost as if Poirier didn’t know exactly what to make of McGregor during the UFC 257 press conference. Some have tried to suggest that Poirier was nervous. But given McGregor’s volatile personality at previous press conferences, few knew what to expect, and Poirier approached his interactions with caution.
Instead of hostility, the world got a chance to see a gracious, but still overwhelmingly confident, version of the former champion. He praised Poirier for his charitable efforts and applauded his adventure in the hot sauce business, going so far as to say that he will trade in a glass of whiskey for a taste of his product after the fight.
There were no beards exchanged. Instead, McGregor vowed to win and give fans an exciting main event.
What we are seeing is a McGregor who is at peace with himself and who knows why he is fighting. He fought to get out of poverty and made all the dreams he set for himself come true when entering the UFC. He needed a chip on his shoulder to motivate him. But when you carry a ‘me against the world’ attitude and don’t realize that the world is no longer against you, refocusing your energy becomes a challenge.
He never seemed to think about what he would do after reaching the top of the mountain. Once there he had nothing to look forward to. And a man who has everything seldom plans how to keep it. Perhaps the hardest part is finding a reason to keep fighting. Anger is made to keep the fire going. And that usually results in a man swinging in the air when his worst enemy has become himself.
Thankfully McGregor stopped before falling aside, seemingly recovered, and is now focused on establishing his legacy. He surpassed his own dreams; now he seeks greatness rather than failure.
“All the money, all the belts, everything, everything comes and goes,” McGregor, 32, said at the UFC 257 press conference. “You know what lives on? Highlights. You watch them. highlights from Roy Jones Jr., Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali and I still watch them today. I want my highlights reel to look like a movie. I want amazing highlights that I can sit like an old man with my son and just looking back while enjoying life.
“Please don’t try to get rid of me guys. I love it here.”
With a third child on the way, McGregor no longer needs to find something to fight for. He has it now: he wants to set an example for his children. The last thing he wants them to see is a man who had it all and got on fire. He also recognizes that he no longer needs to do anything to get attention. Instead, he must prove to the people who believed in him that they were right to support his efforts for all these years.
“I’m just an incredibly motivated young man,” he said. “I am passionate about what I am passionate about. I give my all. That’s all. I’m a hard worker. If anything needs to be done, Conor McGregor makes it happen. Make no mistake.”
He devoted himself again to the sport which gave him all these riches. And this wealth has become an investment in itself. Like LeBron James, McGregor sees the value in using his earnings to help improve his performance with the best training money can buy. He spent 10 weeks in Portugal preparing for this fight and surrounded himself with a team whose sole purpose was to improve every aspect of McGregor’s job.
He doesn’t have to worry about where his money is coming from. Fans will watch whatever he says before the fight. The only thing he needs to focus on is his opponent. Conversation games and mind games won’t get him a win over a man who reinvented himself after losing to McGregor 6 and a half years ago. The Irishman realizes that there is no reason to have bad blood. Leave it all in the cage and show respect for the person who has agreed to trade punches and kicks with you. It takes a special person to do this, and Conor McGregor is a special fighter.
“I feel like I’ve only just started,” McGregor said. “Everyone says, ‘Hey, Conor. You did it all. You are so rich. What are you still doing here? “I want to be here. I want to play for the fans.”
Through it all, he found a new purpose.
“What does the champion-champion do next? He does it twice!” he said. “I conquered it, so let’s conquer it again.”