With a swift left-hand, a punch that has already become stuff of folklore in the Mixed Martial Arts world, Conor McGregor changed the landscape of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Other results and circumstances had seen change sweep through the UFC; it wasn't too long ago that Jon Jones or Anderson Silva reigned supreme, that Ronda Rousey was known as one of the world's premier female athletes and that Jose Aldo was undefeated.
Furthering this changing of the guard, Luke Rochkhold defeated Chris Weidman (the guy who ended the Silva era) in the co-main event of UFC 194, it was only right.
Given the relative infancy of the UFC and that it is trying to find its place amongst the biggest sporting competitions of our world, change is more prevalent here than in any other sport. We have seen fighters not only adapt within the parameters of the UFC but also leading the way in terms of change as fighters discover new ways to get that KO/submission win. This is the beauty of the UFC as there are experts in each discipline displayed in MMA, take Damien Maia's win over Gunnar Nelson at UFC 194 for example as they both belong in the realm of 'best jiu-jitsu exponents in the UFC'. Whether it's jiu-jitsu, boxing, wrestling or kicking, each fighter has a different skillset that can nullify their opponents or offer a weakness to be exposed.
In beating Aldo, McGregor showcased something fresh in the world of the UFC, even if this was only partly shown in the ring. I'm sure there are fighters who have adopted a similar method to McGregor, who preached 'precision and timing over speed and power' yet it hadn't been displayed with such bravado or execution. This however came after McGregor resembled water in the moments before the fight when it was only McGregor, Aldo and the referee in octagon. McGregor flowed, looked at ease and not only looked in complete control of himself, he also looked in complete control of how the fight would unfold.
There are two initiatives that McGregor implemented which excite me as a UFC fan; smart training and an open-mindedness to employ Ido Portal. McGregor said after the fight that he woke up feeling fresh, with no niggling injuries, no sore spots, just a good feeling that today would be his day. To view this and Portal's arrival into McGregor's camp in the weeks leading up to the fight - implementing less MMA-specific training and more of his movement training methods - as a coincidence would be foolish.
Watching the UFC Embedded shows and McGregor's open workout, seeing McGregor walking on handrails and resembling some sort of ancient ninja worried many fans. What was McGregor doing getting all 'spiritual' ahead of the biggest fight of his life? Combine McGregor's knack/ability to predict the future (and then put into action his vision of the fight) with McGregor's training regime and Portal's guidance and we've got a top-tier athlete who is breaking all sorts of 'airy-fairy' walls down ... with a ruthless range of strikes led by his left-hand.
And that's where the beauty lies as McGregor's ability as a fighter hasn't hindered by opening the door to zen, in fact it has enhanced his ability as a fighter. McGregor's long time coach John Kavanagh must be saluted for A) helping McGregor get to where he is now and B) reflected McGregor's open minded approach. Kavanagh not only sharpens McGregor's tools - he, McGregor and their team all knew how this fight would pan out (Aldo overloading etc) - he has also facilitated McGregor's growth as an athlete. Not all coaches would be so open to such initiatives and the fact that Kavanagh and McGregor hail from Ireland and Portal is from Israel (despite living out of a suitcase) shows how the UFC's global growth is bringing in different perspectives, reinvigorating the UFC.
McGregor's fights are fun to watch, his words are fun to listen to and I'm caught up in how fun it will be to follow McGregor's progress. In bringing in a someone like Portal to offer something different, McGregor is leading the way in destroying stereotypes that have held athletes back up until now. Not only will this make McGregor a freaky opponent in the ring, it will also ensure that McGregor fights often as he isn't confined by the old school approach which can have an impact on fatigue/injuries. More McGregor fights means more fun for us as fans, it also means more growth and success for the UFC.
Forgive me if I'm reading far too deep into this but I love McGregor's approach because I believe it reflects the fresh/open minded nature of my generation. Boom.