Fight Club: McGregor fuelled by money and redemption

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Nate Diaz chokes Conor McGregor during UFC 196.

Conor McGregor likes money. It’s no secret. It motivates him, feeds his lavish lifestyle and is symbolic of his transcendent talents in and outside the Octagon. Quite simply, green fuels this Emerald Isle idol.

With great pride McGregor speaks of his attainment earlier this year as the first MMA star to enter Forbes’ 100 Highest Paid Athletes list, coming in at No. 85. It’s estimated the UFC featherweight champion raked in $22 million over the last 12 months, the vast majority of which was earned from clashes with Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes.

But the divisive Irishman is not content with merely breaking into the prestigious list. No, it’s clear he wants more and he is unapologetic in articulating that. In fact, he has his eyes on the man who sits at No. 1: Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Real Madrid star dropped by McGregor’s training camp in Las Vegas last month as he prepares to walk the path to redemption with a rematch against Diaz at UFC 202 on Saturday. As the pair debated their financial muscle (McGregor’s not the only one who likes money) the UFC standout boldly claimed: “Next year, I’ll get you.”

The consensus has long been Notorious’ future prospects hang in the balance in risky rematch with Diaz that McGregor’s genius self-promotion and precocious skills inside the cage could well see the 28-year-old former plumber earn figures seldom seen in MMA.

Yet, that potential is under serious threat this weekend. Diaz inflicted McGregor’s first Octagon defeat on just 10 days notice at UFC 196 in March. While the clash broke pay-per-view records, it also snapped the myth that McGregor could beat anyone, at any weight, at any time – a key supplement feeding his financial strength.

Now, McGregor is running the risk of tasting consecutive defeats for the first time in his career, were he to lose to Diaz again, it will all but end his pursuit of Ronaldo.

Realistically this re-run can be considered career suicide for the Dublin native because what does victory even achieve? Beat Diaz and the pair are tied with a trilogy fight needed to split them. That’s a trio of fights no one really asked for in the first place, built on a rivalry which has lost the steam which propelled UFC 196 to smash just about every promotional record.

The bout represents substantial risk for McGregor and little in the way of reward – bar vengeance of course. Still, there is the nest egg of the 145lbs crown should his second jaunt to 170lbs end in another failure.

UFC president Dana White again insisted this week that whatever the outcome at the T-Mobile Arena in the world’s fight capital, McGregor will go back down to defend the strap against interim featherweight belt holder Aldo.

That’s not a prospect which excites the champ, though.

“There’s a lot to still happen yet,” said McGregor as he held court with world media at his camp base in Vegas. “I’m going to go in there, to face this man (Nate Diaz), do what I know I can do and put him away and then we’ll see.

“I feel strong in my mind. I don’t feel defeat. True champions rise again and I’m a true champion. I look forward to rising again on August 20. I shine under those lights and I will do it again.

“They’re (the rest of the division) praying I don’t come back. Tell me one time I didn’t make weight. I made championship weight when I didn’t have to.

“I am the featherweight world champion. The guy I KO’d in seconds is the interim, I am leaps and bounds ahead of that division.

”That he may be, but come next week McGregor could find himself in a position where the likes of Ronaldo will forever be leaps and bounds ahead of him.

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