Despite the narrative, Saturday Night is a must win for McGregor AND Mendes

mcgregor mendes

The narrative in sport is a very funny thing. We see how it works all the time. Whether it be a soccer team glad of a top-4 finish when a league win didn’t come off, or an underdog boxer giving it his all to leave with more respect than he came with despite coming out on the losing side while  the winner looks less polished than was expected.

Most of the time, the narrative of an MMA fight, like many sports, is dictated by two things. 1. The public perception coming into the fight and 2. What actually happened in the bout itself. At UFC 189, the former might just be a little distorted.

Whether you are a fan of his of not, it’s pretty fair to say that Irish featherweight Conor McGregor is the star of the show this coming Saturday. As we all know, he was initially scheduled to fight the only ever 145 lbs champion Jose Aldo in what would have been, by a distance, the biggest drawing of all of Aldo’s fights. And now that Aldo has pulled out with injury and McGregor still headlines against Chad Mendes for the interim title, over the welterweight title fight, the fact that he is the star is even more evident.

And we know why. The hype surrounds McGregor. The love, the hate, the unsurety. People care about him, whether good or bad. From the hardcore MMA fan to person who caught one clip of him on TV. Everyone has an opinion. With that, though, brings extra scrutiny. And going into this fight, that scrutiny is what’s pushing the narrative. The questions which are still to be asked about McGregor are what make people so insanely opinionated about him.

Can he wrestle? We’ve never really seen him on his back.

What’s he like against a truly elite fighter? He’s never fought one before.

Does he have the cardio to go five rounds? He’s never done it in competition, we’ll have to wait and see.

These are all fair questions and would probably be asked about anyone. But, like many things for McGregor it’s different. A question isn’t a question anymore. It’s automatically a fatal flaw, even though it unarguably hasn’t been shown to be that yet. That over scrutiny, along with the sponsorships, money, gold watches, fancy cars and Mac Mansions come with the territory of being a young, brash, talented, talkative bonifide star.

What also comes with it is the “high horse” feeling which is the narrative for UFC 189’s main event. There is the thinking, that if Conor McGregor loses to Chad Mendes it will be the end of the rails for the hype train. The talk will stop. The buzz will fade. Conor McGregor will fade into the background. But that’s wrong. The buzz might be damaged, but it’ll live – and so will McGregor.

The fact of the matter is, Conor McGregor is 26 years old, has been in the UFC for barely two years and is fighting for the interim title in his sixth fight. A loss here would be a terrible disappointed for him but to act like it’s the end of the road is simply a misplaced logic.

The same, however, cannot be said for Chad Mendes. Unlike McGregor, the feeling around Mendes is that he’s coming into this fight with nothing to lose and to take McGregor down a peg of two. But what if he doesn’t? What then? How will the fight itself affect the narrative we are left with come 7am on Sunday morning?

For Chad Mendes, with a loss, very badly. The fact of the matter is, Mendes has lost twice to Jose Aldo already and would have been in a sort of a limbo if not for this short notice foray with the Dubliner. If he was to lose Saturday, for the third time in a title fight, that limbo would be extended to both McGregor and Aldo.

At thirty years of age, with the champions out of his reach and with the champion of the weight below (TJ Dillashaw) a teammate, Chad Mendes, arguably even more than Conor McGregor, must win this fight. Like McGregor, this won’t be the end for Mendes with a loss but it will be a lot longer of a road back.

That’s the good thing about MMA, though. It’s the ultimate proving ground.  You can stop all this from happening. You can change your path for the better. On Saturday night both Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes have the ability to push the narrative in their favour. Both men have the ability to win the fight, to eliminate a opponent and to take home the interim title.

But only one will.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook