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Will McGregor use one of his main weapons against Poirier – his head games?

The blow exploded on the chin of Jose Aldo and echoed over the mountain peaks of mixed martial arts. When Conor McGregor knocked out the previously unbreakable UFC featherweight champion with a straight left hand just seconds later their title fight 2015Suddenly a cheeky 27-year-old Irishman was at the top of the world.

This breathtaking climb, though seemingly lightning fast, was months in preparation against Aldo – and a lifetime for McGregor.

But it wasn’t just that this 13 second fight this ended Aldo’s six-year reign and elevated McGregor into the stratosphere. Aldo’s winning streak of 18 fights was over long before its owner crashed onto the big screen.

During the preparation for the championship match, McGregor had abused and belittled Aldo for months. Even in Aldo’s home. Especially There.

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Five years later, relive the build-up and knockout that made Conor McGregor a superstar at UFC 194.

“I own this city! I own Rio de Janeiro!” McGregor stated during a pre-fight press conference in Brazil. “So if he said he was the king and I was the joker, I would invade his favela on horseback and kill anyone who is unable to work. But we’re in a new time, so I’ll be cheering his ass in July. “

McGregor was not above hyperbole, xenophobia, or racial baiting if it served him in his career. With Aldo he was adamant.

“Look me in the eye, little man,” growled McGregor as he and Aldo faced each other at the end of their joint media appearance in Rio. Then the Irishman began a mocking recitation of a favorite song among Brazilian fans.

“Uh vai morrer!” shouted a big-eyed McGregor on Aldo’s face, a face that grew tense with every syllable. “Uh vai morrer!”

You will die!

Some fans shied away from this escalation of MMA’s standard trash talk. But many more embraced the audacity. In this latter camp belonged a man who, years before anyone had heard of Conor McGregor, was an archetype. Chael Sonnen, the sport’s greatest speaker until McGregor came along, loved what he heard and realized what it meant for the title fight.

“If you talk like that, you’re getting your opponent off their game plan,” said Sonnen, a longtime middleweight contender and now an ESPN analyst. “He’s fighting emotionally. He makes mistakes. “

Moments after his dethronement, Aldo insisted that McGregor’s insults “really didn’t touch me.” But the world had just seen 13 seconds of evidence to the contrary.

McGregor achieved the lofty place he occupies in mixed martial arts thanks in large part to his left hand, which proved worthy of all accolades that night. The Thundering Fist was tested on many levels over many nights to aid the work of McGregor’s other ruinous weapon: his mouth.

It’s not just about him talking a great game and then having to support it. For McGregor, the verbal attack is integrated into the offensive game plan. It causes a blow no less damaging than sticks and stones.

The Aldo fight was the most dramatic and groundbreaking example of McGregor using verbal warfare to disarm an adversary. It is considered the greatest victory of his career. But rude behavior before the fight was standard as the Irishman rose to featherweight.

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Before becoming a superstar, Conor McGregor made quick work with Marcus Brimage on his debut on April 6, 2013 in Stockholm. He then requested a $ 60,000 bonus from Dana White.

McGregor declared himself a “mental champion” after his first-ever UFC win in 2013 when he was unnerved Marcus Brimage with trash talk before the fight and then won a KO-of-the-night bonus. “It’s a game,” McGregor said at the time, claiming Brimage was too emotional and dropped his punches, giving McGregor an opportunity to counter.

Sound familiar?

A pivotal example of the same dynamic came a year and a half later when McGregor faced his first top 10 opponent. Both he and Dustin Poirier got in the 145 pound division, although the Irishman had more excitement behind him. Some fans and fighters viewed McGregor as the UFC advertising machine’s favorite son, which fueled bitter feelings. But McGregor confirmed all the hype by quickly editing Poirier.

Once again, the dizzying left hand was just the final blow in a McGregor attack that began long before the punches. Poirier had never before dealt with such a flurry of trash talk. He didn’t know what hit him.

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In “Unlocking Victory” Dominick Cruz tells how Conor McGregor managed to beat Dustin Poirier in 2014.

“I wanted to make the guy pay, you know? I was angry, “Poirier told ESPN years later. “I remember trying to fight him at the weigh-in, which in hindsight is crazy. I was just in such a strange place in my mind. “

Poirier was in a much more even mood last January when he and McGregor met again. The preparation for the rematch was warm and the duel during the weigh-in was downright friendly. Poirier even gave McGregor a bottle of his signature hot sauce. In return, Poirier was promised a bottle of McGregor’s Proper Twelve whiskey.

The warm mood had been the same in McGregor’s previous fight, a 40-second knockout of Donald Cerrone in January 2020. Was that a new Conor McGregor? If so, was it a beneficial development? Mr. Nice Guy certainly did well against “Cowboy”.

However, McGregor did not do so well in the rematch against Poirier, who fought brilliantly and was knocked out. won in the second round. Since no trash talk was directed in his direction, Poirier did not have to waste mental energy fighting his emotions. He could focus on his game plan for McGregor the fighter, not McGregor the antagonist.

Poirier’s pinpoint performance also reflected his growth as a mixed martial artist and as a person in the over six years since his first dance with McGregor. But it would be naive to ignore the fact that his fight night task was made much easier by the fact that McGregor didn’t nudge him beforehand.

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Chael Sonnen analyzes Dustin Poirier against Conor McGregor before UFC 264.

While Poirier and McGregor prepare to turn their trilogy around on Saturday. complete UFC 264 in Las Vegas the question is whether McGregor still has it in himself to defeat an opponent before the first blow falls. A bit of sharpness was tossed this time, but it was initiated by Poirier, who reprimanded McGregor for failing to keep his promise to donate to Poirier’s charity.

McGregor responded with vitriol and a donation – to another charity in Poirier’s hometown.

Then, on Tuesday, McGregor released a voice message with a few insults saying he wanted to get Poirier. He later tweeted what appeared to be a direct message request from Poirier’s wife, Jolie. There were no accompanying words from McGregor, just hints. Dragging the family into trash talk is a blow, and both that and the voicemail seem like the deeds of a desperate man rather than masterful mind games. But on Saturday we’ll see.

Some may prefer the respectful McGregor. You may be in the minority among MMA supporters, but the reality is that his lofty skills as a fighter deserve all the glitz. This group would like to ditch the nonsense and focus on an elite martial artist who carries on with class.

But is this guy taking the most efficient route to success? McGregor can Win fights with his punching and kicking skills alone. However, at the highest level in the sport, a fighter is best served by using every offensive tool available to him. A graceful McGregor metaphorically ties a hand behind his back.

“How do I know it works to speak to an opponent before a fight?” said Sonnen. “I know because guys have been done to me. If your opponent says things about you over and over again, or what he’ll do to you, soon you can’t help but ask yourself, ‘What does he know? I dont know?’ It changes your thinking. You tense up. You hesitate to take risks. You’re not at your best. “

Sonnen saw the mental attack work like a charm in the fight it’s best known for: his challenge to the indomitable 2010 middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

“I saw Anderson’s face when he started thinking about the things I was saying,” Sonnen said. “It started when he said to himself, ‘Man, this guy is crazy.’ But after a while, whether he was going to admit this or not, he began to wonder, ‘Is this guy right? Is it true that he can beat me whenever he wants?’ “

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Dustin Poirier sits down with Brett Okamoto to preview his trilogy fight with Conor McGregor on July 10th.

Sonnen has beaten Silva time and time again, although a late entry saved the champion’s day. Sonnen is certain, but he insists that his stormy lecture was aimed at only one audience: himself. The more Sonnen talked to himself, the more he believed he was really the greatest.

“I used to hear people say, ‘He wins because he gets into everyone’s mind,'” Sonnen said. “But for me it was more about getting into my own head.”

And now he advises McGregor to return to this strategy, whose unwavering confidence has brought the best out of him and whose callous boasting has produced the worst of opponents.

“I like the Conor with a certain something,” said Sonnen. “That’s a big part of what made him special. And I think he has to be that guy again.”

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