JOHANNESBURG - On Saturday night, the new owners of the UFC and Mixed Martial Arts fans around the globe will discover the real trajectory of its brightest shining star -- the lippy from the Liffy, Conor McGregor.
Whether he continues his ascent through the firmament like a supernova or falls to earth like a ‘60’s Sputnik depends upon the equally brash Stockton native, Nate Diaz.
In the biggest gamble of his career to date, the Dubliner returns to Vegas obsessed on vengeance against the only man to have bested him in his entire UFC career as recently as this March.
When the bigger Diaz wobbled McGregor in the second round forcing him to seek a more wakeful recovery through grappling, the Gracie Barra disciple sunk in the rear-naked choke forcing the tap to pull the Cali shades down on the blind green hordes.
His defeat sent a wave of schadenfreude and stupefaction throughout the MMA world, despite it’s more discerning inhabitants none too surprised at the defeat of a man giving up two divisions of muscle-mass to a 22-fight veteran of the organisation on short notice.
But it will be a tsunami if the Irishman fails to make amends on the 20th of August.
The build-up to the fight has included all the gurning we expect from two pottymouths who whilst are truly incredible fighters, certainly wouldn’t look out-of-place at Summerslam.
Admittedly, having truly enjoyed the well-oiled UFC hype-train in Sin City last December when McGregor stopped Josè Aldo in 13 seconds, the protracted PR-provoked primate-posturing to this one has left me wearisome.
I completely understand the reasons for more firelighters on the barbecue, but some of us are just waiting for the medium-rare to go with the Merlot.
I appreciate that there are still far too many misconceptions amongst a neophytic audience in a PPV era whereby a promotion needs to seek as much leverage from its headline names, but too much accelerant burns the meat. This will have to be good, especially after last month’s historic UFC 200 which looked more like a shed in a swamp than the landmark event we were promised.
So there’s a lot at stake for the Irish luminary as much as the new owners of the UFC, desperately expecting signs of ROI for the $4 billion empty space in their wallets.
A loss for Conor would force him to defend his featherweight belt, a weight-cut to 145lbs that his coach John Kavanagh admits his charge may no longer be able to make, handing the belt de facto to sore-losing arch-rival, aforementioned Aldo.
The possibility of taking on newly-minted lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez is also not a contest I fancy going well for him and the prospect of a three-fight losing streak for a man who’s entire fighting career has been anchored in the most outlandish self-belief, NLP, PMA and WTF may initiate the most spectacular burn-up in atmospheric re-entry ever witnessed from the world of sport.