Mental Game: McGregor vs. Diaz #UFC202
It’s no secret, Conor McGregor is one of the biggest trash talkers in MMA.
Then again, so is Nate Diaz. It didn’t really faze the younger Diaz the last time around, any experienced MMA fan knows that there is nothing that can get into the head of the brothers. They get in there, they fight and win or lose they move on.
However, the game hasn’t seen anything like Conor since perhaps the days of Tito Ortiz. Of course, there have been plenty of trash talkers from Dan Hardy to Jon Jones, but no one has gone as far out of their way as McGregor has to make headlines.
His latest target has famously been the WWE Universe:
I didn't mean no disrespect to the @wwe fans. What I meant to say was that I'd slap the head off your entire roster. And twice on Sunday's.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 7, 2016
Of course, he received a ton of blow back from the superstars:
— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) August 7, 2016
Your the size of my leg. Shut up. https://t.co/fBVEdf8hE1
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) August 7, 2016
The latest to clap back was WWE front man Seth Rollins who basically said the obvious:
“I’m a full sized human being so if he wants to come around and try to slap the face off me… by all means step into our ring and see what you got.”
Obviously, Conor is no where near the size of most wrestlers but that’s not the point. The point is that he knows what to say and who to say it to in order to generate the most buzz.
The Case for Conor
He may have finally pissed Nate off, as we saw at the press conference the other day, Diaz was sick of Conor trying to make everything about him by arriving 30 minutes late, causing Nate to get up and roll with his posse before hurling water bottles at the Irishman’s crew.
Afterwards, much to Dana White’s dismay McGregor retaliated with bottles and large Monster Energy cans.
At the very least Conor’s camp has Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock convinced he has the mental edge; Whitlock believes the Featherweight Champ is trying (and succeeding) to get Diaz off his mental game, which would result in a more frustrated fighter inside the octagon.
“He wants him to think ‘he’s better than me’,” he goes on to mention, citing Diaz was the one who got frustrated and got up casting the first stone, or in this case water bottle.
Yes, a some-what uncharacteristic outburst from Diaz, but it was big brother Nick who motioned him to get up according to Anthony Johnson, (see alternate angle here).
In my mind, this is most likely the Diaz brothers trying to show out with their squad, basically saying ‘Conor doesn’t get to run the show every time’ which is why they walked out middle fingers blazing like Eminem circa 2001. It’s entirely possible though, that it was frustration finally boiling over.
The Case for Nate
Despite what Jason Whitlock says, I (and from what I see in comments, many others) think it is the exact opposite. I think Nate is extremely deep into Conor’s psyche.
With the pressure being on McGregor’s shoulders considering the amount he’s spent on this camp, the problems with showing up on time for marketing purposes and of course the fear of losing a second time to the only man who can go toe-to-toe (or chirp-for-chirp) with him. It would no doubt be a huge ego blast for Conor to lose a second time.
He would have to go back to featherweight (if he can make the cut) with his tail between his legs, having been beaten twice by a fighter who doesn’t seem poised to ever win a title, not that Nate cares. Considering how much Conor has said he would whoop the asses of many divisions, he may end up with his foot in his mouth.
If you saw Embedded last night then you noticed McGregor was far more livid than his usual self. He really wanted to go back on stage during that presser, saying “Let me go out and speak.”
As well, at the open workouts he fielded every question with essentially “Fuck Nate and Nick Diaz”, even cutting off people in the middle of their questions to say “Fuck Team Diaz and if you’re down with Team Diaz fuck you too”, some gentle words.
McGregor’s and Diaz’s animosity in this fight is certainly rubbing off everywhere.
Twitter exploded during bottle-gate at the press conference and it seems Diaz is in a heightened state of “F this guy”, more so than usual. From what I’ve watched about Nate he seems to think the UFC is backing Conor no matter what he does, as revealed by his statement that the UFC is making “an escape route” for McGregor even if he loses.
Even Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping had to calmly 😉 shut down to raucous Irish fans at today’s UFC 204 presser:
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) August 19, 2016
No matter which side your on, in terms of the mental game, I have to give it to Diaz. I have never seen Conor this frustrated, hopefully it makes this a great fight rather than a circus event.