It's Time to Stop Doubting Conor McGregor

For the first time in the sport's history, the eyes of the MMA world were on the world's most famous arena Saturday night. After a long legislative battle, the UFC was making it's debut in New York City at it's crown venue. Stars gathered, both from the sport and from Hollywood. A stacked card was assembled of stars both old and new and, despite losing a pair of big fights, was widely considered the greatest on-paper UFC card of all time.  The historic card was headlined by the biggest star in the short timeline of the sport. Despite spending most of the lead-up as the betting favorite at the large majority of sports books, Conor McGregor was being counted out among both the MMA media and hardcore fanbase. His opponent, Eddie Alvarez, had spent long years in the lower tiers of MMA, capturing those organization's championships along the way. Alvarez won the lightweight division's highest honor by beating champion Rafael dos Anjos in Las Vegas in July, 4 months after Conor McGregor suffered his first Octagon loss at the hands of Nate Diaz. McGregor would come back to beat Diaz about 7 weeks later, the stars aligned and a fight between the 145 lb champion and 155 lb kingpin Eddie Alvarez was announced for UFC 205 in New York City.  After months of buildup, featuring McGregor's renowned trash talk and Alvarez's dismissal of his opponent's skill set, the time had come for the two to settle it once and for all. The cage door locked, and less than 10 minutes later Conor McGregor once again was victorious on the sport's biggest stage. Another jewel was added to the crown of MMA's popularity and financial King, while the so-called experts of the sport were once again left with egg on their face. It isn't the first time he's left his doubters disappointed, but it should be the last. The first time McGregor faced doubt, albeit to a lesser degree, was his PPV debut against Dustin Poirer at UFC 178. Experts and fans alike questioned whether the Irishman could handle the step up in competition while fighting outside of home territory. Conor made quick work of Poirer, once again becoming the talk of the town with his post-fight interview, and his star grew brighter.  After disposing of Denis Siver in January of 2015, McGregor was heavily criticized for being given a title shot against Jose Aldo after a victory of such a lowly opponent. The championship bout was scheduled for July and Aldo was almost unanimously considered the heavy favorite . When the longtime champion pulled out with an injury, Chad Mendes was named his replacement with the UFC putting the interim Featherweight belt on the line. McGregor's perceived lack of any wrestling ability became the topic of discussion, and the MMA crowd once again counted the future champion out. After being taken down in the first two rounds, "The Notorious" made it back to his feet to knock the Team Alpha Male representative out with a 1-2 combo.  Cries of "Mendes gassed" and discussions of the effect Chad's short camp had graced the pages of social media until the title unification bout was announced. The same predictions that were made when the fights was originally announced resurfaced in the months leading up to UFC 194. A full year of buildup ended with one shot. The interim champion landed the first and last strike of the fight, ending Jose Aldo's 10+ year winning streak in 13 short seconds. "Lucky shot" became the doubter's new response.  McGregor continued his quest for dominance by accepting a fight against newly crowned Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. McGregor's chances were again dismissed, and dos Anjos was the popular pick. Rafael suffered an injury, and McGregor was once again searching for a new opponent. Many names were brought up and considered, but Nate Diaz was the chosen one. Diaz started his short camp fresh off a Mexican vacation, and picks seemed to be split down the middle. McGregor won the first round, landing good shots with ease. The tides turned early in the second round with Diaz rocking and eventually submitting the brash star. The doubters congratulated themselves and assumed the hype train had come to a stop.  To heavy surprise, McGregor vs Diaz 2 was announced. The legions of so-called experts were sure the ultimate vindication was all but guaranteed. Stockton's favorite son would again handily defeat the most hated man in the sport, and send him back to Dublin for good. The lights of the MMA world were set on T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with many expecting a farewell party following a Diaz victory... but they were wrong again. The first 3 rounds were nearly a carbon copy of the first meeting, with Conor looking good early before tiring, allowing Nate to pummel the 145 lb champion. Needing a finish or to take both of the championship rounds, McGregor rallied. After 25 octagon minutes and countless exciting moments, Conor McGregor's hand was raised as the victor of an all-time classic.  McGregor would once again choose to take on the 155 pound champ, now Eddie Alvarez. New York City in Madison Square Garden were chosen as the setting, and McGregor was once again considered the likely loser. Eddie's experience and skill set would prove to be too much for the Irishman, they said. After another eccentric showing at the pre-fight press conference, The Twitter verse was salivating at the likelihood of another McGregor pounding. Despite Alvarez briefly even becoming The betting favorite and most sports books, the featherweight champion once again came out on top. After dropping Alvarez four times, MacGregor put him down for good in the second round of the four piece combination. History was made as the 145 lb Champion also became the 155 pound champion, being the first to actively hold belts in two weight divisions.  With nay-sayers now being proven wrong a handful of times, one would hope the lesson has been learned… Conor McGregor is for real, he is one of the best in the world, and he is not to be doubted. He will lose again, and it may be soon, but it will not taint what he has accomplished so far in his short career. He will continue to be controversial, he will continue to irk those who dislike him, but he is not going anywhere anytime soon.

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