Conor McGregor is the celtic Muhammad Ali.
He proves the point that the greatest weapon of a fighter is his character.
McGregor is a martial artist. He understands that a fighter is also a poet, someone who must manifest values and embody truth.
Nate Diaz has one strategy, and that’s to keep going forward and beat the other guy with superior technique.
McGregor understands that a fight is won in the mind, like Ali did.
Here are three things I learned from Conor McGregor after UFC 202:
1. We win or we learn
2. Hard work protects you from critics
3. Being honest with yourself doesn’t mean beating on yourself
1. Mental strength doesn’t come from intellectual will. It comes from emotional reserves. As much as McGregor was damaged by his loss to Diaz at UFC 196 – and his image was tarnished as a public figure – none of that destroyed him. You can only come back from that kind of loss if you draw on your sense of self and your sense of moral purpose from a place that is independent of wins or losses. Whatever it is that drives McGregor, victory is only one part of what he loves about his job. His mental strength comes from a deeper place.
2. How do you avoid the toxic effect of ringside critics? McGregor said that everyone from pundits to fight fans, wrote him off. It’s true. By his own admission, Conor’s fight camp was much more structured than before. He treated it like a nine to five, set himself tasks and completed them. The business of work keeps us grounded. Greatness and poetry and beauty and bloody victories all come from the same place – dedicated concentration on the task at hand. This is the only thing that keeps you grounded in an age of selfies, social media witch-hunts and opiniontainment.
3. Something Conor said in his post-fight press conference interested me a lot. He talked about how he had to take a good hard look at himself, to analyse his weaknesses and vulnerabilities as a fighter. Too often we confuse confidence with invulnerability, with being impervious to criticism. Again, the fact that McGregor draws his emotional and mental strength from deeper reserves than a boom or bust bank account of the heart, means that he has the objectivity and maturity to do that. Criticising ourselves, being ruthlessly honest, doesn’t mean we have to beat on ourselves. In fact, it can be the best way to love yourself – you are effectively confirming your potential for greatness, by admitting to yourself that you have more work to do.
Like I said, I am no MMA expert, but I do understand the psychology of how fights are won.
Any martial art is a spiritual practice. The person least enslaved by their temperament and subconscious drives is always the ultimate victor.
Like Andy Murray in tennis, I see Conor McGregor as a hugely important cultural figure. He shows the celtic fringe nations that fierceness and warrior prowess have little to do with anger and volatility.
A warrior is someone with complete command of his or herself, and it was this command that led McGregor to victory at UFC 202.