This past weekend one of UFC’s most high profile and undefeated fighters, Conor McGregor, lost his first professional bout at the hands of Nate Diaz in what is being considered a huge upset. McGregor is perhaps best known for his pre-match antics and at times offensive trash talk in his game of psychological warfare against his oppoenents, but usually backs it up with stellar performances in the octagon. I do not follow UFC very closely, but as a sports fan in general I have taken notice to McGregor as of late, as well as the person most would consider his closest female counterpart in Ronda Rousey.
I mentioned that McGregor losing was somewhat of a shocker, but there seems to be a valid reason– justa couple of weeks before the previously scheduled fight that would have seen him step up a weight class, his opponent dropped out due to injury. Instead of cancelling the bout, McGregor decided to move up another weight class and competed two weight classes above his normal weight. I’m not an expert, but that sounds like a difficult thing to prepare for on such short notice. But that is not the important thing here. No one will really care much about the details other than who won and who lost, and in this case McGregor is one thing: the loser.
What I find interesting about this is how he has handled the loss. In the social media age we live in with constant access to celebrities and sports figures, there is always an outlet for the general population to keep up with what is going on. In a sport like UFC it is imperative that the fighters find a way to stay relevant and get people to purchase fights. It isn’t like the big sport leagues that have huge media deals and will be televised and watched by millions without question, rather there has to be a lot of work on the fighters to build a brand. McGregor and Rousey both built solid brands around their seemingly endless confidence and bravado, but when they both finally lost a match they could not have reacted differently.
Rousey took weeks to comment on her loss and did her best to stay out of the public spotlight. Even though she didn’t make an immediate statement, her silence spoke volumes itself. Once she finally did grace the public, she was open about the fact that her loss put her in a bad place where she was even having suicidal thoughts. McGregor on the other hand had a very different reaction to his loss. He took to Instagram to post a picture of himself before the fight and captioned it with a rather confident message about his view of what happened, beginning with,
“I stormed in and put it all on the line. I took a shot and missed. I will never apologize for taking a shot.”
He posted the link to his Instagram post on his Twitter feed which boasts well over a million followers as well for additional publicity.
I stormed in and put it all on the line. I took a shot and missed.
I will never apologize for… https://t.co/cS8SMnWWGW
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) March 6, 2016
I won’t post the entire caption from his message and advise those that do not like strong language to take my word that he is not too discouraged about his career moving forward. Social media has changed how we interact with the world and conversely how the world interacts with us. Having a mostly unfiltered platform to deliver such messages is something that would not have been possible before the rise of social media, and it is interesting to see just how many different ways it can be utilized. It really makes me wonder how some of my favorite athletes from the 90’s and before would have used social media to interact with their fans and the world in general.
One thing is for sure though. While Ronda Rousey may have been wishing the internet and social media did not exist after her defeat, Conor McGregor was chomping at the bit to tell the world how he felt after his loss. Can the pressure of having so many people to address, whether indirectly or directly, begin to change how athletes and stars of this caliber succeed in their careers?