UFC featherweight contender Conor McGregor will go up against replacement opponent Chad Mendes at UFC 189, as the two duke it out for the junior title in the absence of champion Jose Aldo. So much is on the line for the two stars of UFC 189, as a unification bout with the Brazilian ‘Scarface’ awaits the winner. After years of seeing numerous MMA (mixed martial arts) champions come and go, there seems to be a pattern emerging, and a clear message; it takes more than just fight skills to become a UFC champion.

You need to have a plethora of qualities to even be considered for a title fight, at least legitimately, and to hold the belt is to have reached the pinnacle of years of hard work, sacrifice and planning. Champions like Georges St-Pierre reigned with dominance, but was low in the trash talking department. Ronda Rousey is extremely outspoken, a pioneer in her own right, and about as committed a fighter as you’ll ever see. Jon Jones had the talent and physical abilities/advantages to ruin all contenders to his throne, but he learned the hard way that championship status reaches much farther than the gym, the octagon, or even the trophy cabinet.

Back to the point, I see five glaring qualities in UFC 189 title challenger Conor McGregor that will see the Irishman, eventually at least, crowned the first UFC champion from his native land.

5 Reasons Conor McGregor Will Be UFC Champion…….

conor mcgregor ufc champion 2016 UFC 189 UFC 196, UFC 200

5. Charisma

McGregor has what many lack in the world of fighting; charisma, and in bucket loads at that. His flash style in fashion, the poetic way in which he speaks and the outrageous personal attacks on his opponents are all part of a plan. Don’t be fooled by his suave demeanour and sharp tongue, these are all tools to enable his image and marketability to grow, and it’s worked fantastically so far.

In the two years that he has been fighting for the UFC, ‘The Notorious’ has lived up to his nickname by becoming one of the most well known faces in the game. Legends of the sport, including Anderson Silva and GSP, battled for years to get the recognition they deserved in the sport, and truthfully this is McGregor’s first elite level bout coming up. To this point, he has proved himself at least worthy of top 10 fights, but Mendes is at a much higher platform than that.

Charisma will only carry you so far though, you have to have the next quality on the list in stock, bug time……

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4. IQ

MMA and the UFC provide a very limited spotlight, during a small time window, for fighters to try and put their brand on show. It’s not easy, as countless failed contenders will tell you, although ‘The Notorious’ has made it look that way. Admittedly the promotion has put a lot of time, effort and money in to the McGregor hype train, but he had to think on his feet countless times, and knows exactly when/what to say.

Quick witted is a term used to describe the cocky and confident Irishman, and his knowledge of the fight game, including promotion, is at an outstanding level. This guy knows how to get a crowd going, how to escalate his fame and notoriety, and in the UFC it’s not an easy thing to do.

A snippet from McGregor’s own article in The Independent:

“I am obsessed.

I hear people say I am over-confident, cocky, arrogant, all talk. They know nothing. I see a lot of fake humility in this business. They are the phonies. I make my money in a dangerous, brutal game. The object is to inflict damage, take the other guy out. Each fighter is carrying some serious weapons. You can’t face that down without feeling bullet-proof. 

The people who act a certain way for the approval of people they do not even know. For the approval of society. They are the fakes. I say what I am here for. I say what I am going to do to get it. Then I go out and get it. I have done the work. I show up and I succeed.

I am not scared. I am human.

Anybody who is competing under the spotlight becomes anxious. I like to recognise the feeling as normal. Normal human emotion. The same as my opponent. The same as any human feels at times of competition. Everyone is scared, everyone is anxious. We all feel the same way. How could I let another scared man across the dressing room make me scared? I embrace that feeling as normal. Familiar human emotion. Familiar human reaction in times of combat. I  rely on my training, my work-ethic, my movement to see me through. It gives me clarity. And it enables me to have fun.”

Moving on……

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3. Physical advantages

‘The Notorious’ is a big man for the featherweight division, standing at 175 cm tall, he also cuts a considerable amount of weight to make the 145-pound limit. Looking more like a small welterweight when he steps in the octagon, McGregor usually enjoys either a size or reach advantage, or both, against the more natural sized featherweights of the division.

Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones exploited his height and reach advantage to great effect during his championship reign of terror, and similarly used a variety of unorthodox strikes to make his reach count that much more. Chad Mendes may be in for a long night if he can’t overcome the Irishman’s eight inch reach advantage. To put that in to perspective, ‘Money’ would need to hold a number two pencil in each hand to be able to get the same extension on his strikes.

Check out McGregor using those lanky arms to hold Aldo’s belt and play keep-away during the UFC 189 media tour:

Conor McGregor vs Diego Brandao

2. Technical ability

So you have the gift of the gab, you are pretty much a trash talking king, you are quick on your feet and know what to say, and you are built for the sport and division in which you compete. Well, without the technical ability you are nothing. Born from his adverse training, wide knowledge of martial arts overall, and years of dedication in the gym, Conor McGregor has a sweet style that is devastating when used properly.

It’s hard to fathom the movements made by modern martial artists, there is just so much to take in. Some fighters are heavily talented in one area, others like to be all-rounders, but the SBG (Straight Blast Gym) product may well be part of the first wave of complete MMA fighters. Like Jon Jones and Chris Weidman, there is no real weak area for opponents to pick at, and theat makes them, and most other dominant figures in the game, extremely dangerous.

It seems that McGregor is a master of movement, and has drawn comparisons to legendary figures in sports such as Muhammed Ali and Anderson Silva. Check out this video studying the movement of Conor McGregor, and tune in for the number one…..

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1. $$$

The modern MMA game is littered with huge talents that never quite made it to the big time, maybe they even made it in to the UFC, but just didn’t have that ‘Je ne sais quoi’. Well, in fact, it wasn’t the ‘X-factor’ they lacked, at least in some cases, rather the ‘$-factor’. McGregor is the man to make the UFC millions, while lining his own pockets with well deserved paychecks from bonuses, basic wages, lucrative sponsorship deals and much more.

From the charisma, IQ, the physical gifts and the technical ability, ‘The Notorious’ is money, and he knows it. There’s also the element of nationality to address, not only does he have a country of excited Irish fans behind him, his very background is famous for centuries of fighting and war. The keen Irish people are a throwback in terms of MMA popularity, as most of this is new to them. The nation is thirsty for this sport, and Conor McGregor is an idol, a legend, a national hero on home soil.

It’s sad, but true at the same time, but money rules the fight game. It always has, and it always will, and is the pure and singular motivation behind the UFC’s committal to making Conor McGregor a star.

Now I’m not predicting that McGregor will beat Aldo or even Mendes, but his unique combination of all the above, and most significantly the $$$ aspect have seen the Irish star fast tracked to a UFC title shot. Whether he wins it now, or further down the line, ‘The Notorious’ is a sure bet for a future champion, at least in my books.