After all the trash talk and the predictions, McGregor ended up being choked out by an opponent who he claimed had 'overrated jiu-jitsu', and in the main event of what was really a card focused on him. In his fight against Diaz, McGregor had found someone who could take that left hand shot, who could keep him at range and remain unfazed by both the stage and the narrative.
UFC 196 report: Diaz stuns McGregor in Vegas
The furore after McGregor's first UFC loss was to be expected. The persona he has forged is divisive - the constant talk about money, the pre-fight predictions and dismissal of the opponents skills - but one that will always be in the spotlight. McGregor knows that a WWE-style persona is the best way to keep the numbers he craves flowing, as you harness a devoted crowd who want to see you win, and a slew of furious haters that tune in to witness you lose.
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This is not to say that the persistent outcry against Rousey is justified; her recent interview with Ellen was a brave admission of a very real problem in MMA, and not one that warranted the negative internet reaction that we saw. Nonetheless, McGregor's conduct after his loss has so far been the antithesis to Rousey's, and his grace in defeat suggests that the path back to his lofty heights may not be a difficult one.
The loss at 196 does slow the McGregor freight train quite considerably. The UFC 200 headliner with welterweight champ Robbie Lawler is gone, and so are any other possible cross-weight superfights for the near future. Losing to a lightweight contender also renders the Dos Anjos fight a tough sell, so featherweight now seems to be the only option.
UFC 196: How the company's plans took a big hit on fight night
There is plenty that will sting for McGregor; his first UFC loss and the multi-division champion dream leaving the picture for the time-being, among other things. However, McGregor is still the champion at featherweight, and realistically only needs one win to get the ball rolling again. A fight with Edgar is the ideal test to overcome, but an Aldo rematch is likely what we will see at UFC 200. A win there will have many UFC fans back on-board.
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There are things to address; whilst McGregor's grappling is not poor by any means, it needs marked situational improvement. His loyalty to his team at SBG is inspiring, but he needs to consider bringing in new bodies to hone his skills. When you are by far the best at your own gym, you will rarely be facing adversity in training, and struggle to overcome it when it rears its head in the Octagon.
The McGregor brand is dented, but not completely damaged. Fighting at 170 on short notice with the same intensity he planned to use at 155 was foolish, but provides a learning experience. Much of the trash talk will need to be re-thought, and he will need to brace himself for the new wave of ammo his rivals have just received. The fact that McGregor was looking past this fight already may have contributed to his loss, and the cut to 145 will be even more of a struggle this time around, but there is plenty of time to improve. For a man who was becoming too big for his boots, a loss like this is a much needed reality check. No one is invincible.
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