Conor McGregor seizes the moment in an explosion of what-just-happened

Jonathan Raymond writes that Conor McGregor justified the hype – his own hype – on Sunday with a quick, complete and devastating victory over Jose Aldo.

Conor McGregor reacts after defeating Jose Aldo for the featherweight championship at UFC 194 on Sunday in Las Vegas. John Locher / AP / December 12, 2015
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“Sometimes it’s over before you know it.”

Before UFC 194 in Las Vegas, Conor McGregor was turning hype into an art form. Two weeks ago, he was tweeting, “Wake up Jose. It’s all over.” Last week he said Jose Aldo was “already beaten”.

“He cannot take my power,” McGregor said in a promotional video.

“I’m going to embarrass Jose,” he told reporters.

“The cold and calculated unified world champion,” he described himself in posting a picture of himself. On Wednesday.

The magnetism of Conor McGregor is not just in his brash, charismatic confidence. Plenty of athletes who talk a good game have come before; plenty will come again. What makes McGregor special is the audaciousness of his certainty. Like the apocalyptic soothsayer who will not just predict doomsday, but will claim to foresee it to the second-of-the-minute-of-the-hour-of-the day, Conor McGregor will not just say he is going to beat you. He is going to say something like, “I look in his eyes, and I see someone who knows his era is over. It’s a new era. It’s my era. I almost want to comfort him. I want to say, ‘Don’t worry. It will all be over soon’.”

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McGregor predicted, over and over again, with the certainty of two and two making four, nothing short of Jose Aldo’s doomsday at UFC 194. Aldo, one of the UFC’s greatest ever champions. The only champion the featherweight division that organisation had known.

And he delivered doomsday.

In the span of a Vine clip, McGregor knocked out Aldo. The fight lasted 13 seconds, the shortest title fight in UFC history, of which for maybe five were the fighters actually engaged.

Aldo lunged. McGregor blocked. McGregor countered. Aldo countered. Aldo fell. McGregor pounced. Fight over.

The thing is, Aldo, in those brief seconds before his destruction, seemed to accomplish what he was trying to. His right jab brought McGregor’s arms down in defence. His left hook landed squarely on McGregor’s face. The Irishman just seemed happy to oblige this scenario. By dropping his arms he also positioned himself for the blow to Aldo’s jaw that dropped the champion.

You hit me in the face. I will hit you in the face. Whoever is left standing wins. Such is the consistency of McGregor’s audaciousness.

More than simply besting Aldo, more than simply winning the title, he walked the walk of all that talk. He backed up every barb, every declaration, all of the arrogance and all of the self-regard. Spectacularly.

There are really two ways for a fight to be truly pulsating. The long way and the short way. Two evenly matched gladiators pushing each other to the limit, building to an epic crescendo. Or in a sudden and stupefying explosion of what just happened?

McGregor’s sudden and stupefying explosion of what just happened against Aldo really could not have been scripted any better.

This fight was supposed to happen at UFC 189 in July, before Aldo pulled out with an injury. It gave McGregor the chance to beat Chad Mendes and look like he really might be a great deal more than an electric personality attached to fists. The chance to give this fight – his fight – the anticipation it deserved.

“The last time in July ... I didn’t embrace it all,” McGregor said in his post-fight interview of the pageantry, the spectacle and, yes, the hype that surrounds a fight of this stature. “And I just wanted to embrace every bit of it a bit more.

“Because sometimes it’s over before you even know it. And then you’re like ‘I wish I was in the moment a bit more’, so this time I was a hell of a lot more in the moment.”

It was an astonishing moment. A historic moment. McGregor’s moment.

It is a good thing he relished it, too. It was over pretty fast.

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