It has been well over 2 years since we have seen the biggest star in UFC history compete, specifically since July 10th, 2011. Yet since Conor McGregor has been recovering from a nasty injury in which he broke his leg against Dustin Poirier, rumors have ramped up about when the Irishman will return.
McGregor’s long time head coach, John Kavanagh, recently made an appearance on The MMA Hour, and said this in regards to a return date: “We were hoping for April. That was the hope. That was what we were told. And now it seems to be the summertime.”
To be fair, this news should be taken with a grain of salt. Talk of McGregor finally returning to a UFC octagon seems like more of a broken record than anything these days. But if it were to be true, what can we expect of him?
That question is not a simple one, as there are many factors to take into consideration. The two most important are: Will the former UFC double champion fully recover from such a brutal injury? Also, will his time off slow him down?
Nasty Leg Injury
Let’s start with the injury, which would still make anyone wince upon watching it to this day. During his fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264, McGregor would step back with his left leg and immediately snap his tibia and fibula due to pre-existing fractures. It was tough to watch, you can see the leg just snap in half, essentially, followed by McGregor screaming in pain and hitting the ground.
This injury is so severe that not even Conor himself could downplay it. He stated the following: “When a serious injury with a high percentage of never recovering occurs, it is just simply not the same.” This only proves that thinking McGregor will never be the same is not an opinion, but more of of a true fact at this point.
Look no further than Chris Weidman, who suffered a similar injury back in April of 2021 and has not been the same since. Conor returning to his prime form after an injury like that would not only be shocking but truly unprecedented.
Time Away From MMA
Let’s just assume he can recover from the injury, and that will not be an issue. Is he actually still up to par with these top fighters in the UFC?
For the better part of his time away, Conor has really been enjoying life, to say the least. And I am not one of these people who knock him for living it up, because everything that man has, he has earned through hard work and sacrifice. However, the fact of the matter is that Conor has been living a lavish lifestyle on his yacht, while the contenders in his division have remained in the gym.
It gets to a point where you can only catch up so much with guys that are simply outworking you. Now yes, I did see him hitting pads on his boat during the hiatus. But that isn’t going to make a huge difference.
As an athlete, you do not get better when you take time off. You only get better by actually being in there fighting, sparring, and getting hard training sessions in. Marvin Hagler’s quote has been brought up numerous times in relation to McGregor.
“It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5 a.m. when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.”
That quote is so accurate because fighting has never been a rich man’s game. Most fighters that made their way up were broke, homeless, or suffered some form of adversity. In other words, they fought to make a better life for themselves. How do you motivate a man who now has it all?
It feels like many McGregor fans are still mesmerized by his magical run in 2016. The Conor that we saw against Eddie Alvarez seemed like a mythical, unbeatable character. And so I do understand the desire to see the old McGregor, but we simply must be realistic with our expectations. Conor is also not doing himself any favors, as the man refuses to take warm-up fights. That “anyone, anytime, any place” attitude is part of what made McGregor so special in the past. But nowadays, it could aid his very downfall.
What are the odds that he overcomes the injury, inactivity, and strength of the opposition? I am not suggesting that Conor McGregor will lose his next fight, but it is hard for me to say that I am looking at the same fighter that I’ve seen in years past.