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Notorious poster

As ‘Notorious’ debuts in cinemas, is McGregor losing the plot?

Conor McGregor’s rise from penniless Dublin plumber to UFC bill-topper is the subject of a new feature-length documentary Notorious.

It charts the four years between the Irishman’s UFC debut and his second fight with Nate Diaz; a mixed martial arts rags to riches tale which sets up an eagerly-anticipated third and deciding bout against Diaz in 2018.

‘Notorious’ serves as a testament to the 29-year old’s character, reminding us how far charisma combined with hard work and talent can propel a rising star of the octagon.

Having banked a reported $30m from his August match-up with Floyd Mayweather in the boxing ring, with his reputation enhanced by a decent display against the multiple world champion, the future looked bright for the 29-year-old.

However, McGregor’s recent fracas at the Bellator 187 MMA promotion in Dublin on November 10th has dampened that mood and suggested all may not be well in the Mac’s life.

Chaos

McGregor hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after hurdling into cage at the Bellator event in his hometown to celebrate with the seemingly victorious Charlie Ward.

Referee Marc Goddard had appeared to stop the fight just before the end of the round, after Ward left his opponent John Redmond slumped on the canvas.

But Goddard proceeded to usher McGregor out of the cage, and Ward back to his corner, insisting the fight hadn’t finished.

McGregor made a beeline for Goddard, aggressively shouting and waving his finger whilst being held by officials.

After being removed, McGregor attempted another charge at the cage door calling Goddard a ‘savage’ and demanding the fight be stopped.

Damning footage later released, appeared to show McGregor slapping an official as he tried to remove him from the cage.

Stressed

This isn’t the first time Goddard and ‘The Notorious’ have clashed.

Last month, Goddard had to interrupt a fight between Andre Filli and another one of McGregor’s stablemates Artem Lobov, asking the UFC lightweight champion to sit down and to stop screaming instructions from cage side.

Later that evening, McGregor was filmed backstage consoling the defeated Lobov, calling Filli a ‘faggot’.

This comes after footage surfaced of McGregor acting out of character in a night club, looking visibly stressed as a club-goer reached out to touch him.

Rapid ascent

“The illusion of crazy is over,” McGregor tells his coach John Kavanagh in Notorious, moments after the weigh-in for his second fight against Diaz.

McGregor’s zero-to-hero timeline has certainly been short in scale – and he will make sure you’re aware of it – but it’s entirely possible that his rapid climb has not benefitted him entirely.

It’s ironic that, having adopted a nickname based on his notoriety, he now risks becoming a victim of it.

There is a chance that the huge amount of cash McGregor made in his boxing debut has upset the apple cart somewhat.

Having earned so much for one fight, how difficult is it to return to fighting for a lot less in a more savage sport with a greater risk of serious injury?

McGregor is expected to defend his UFC crown in the lightweight division shortly.

Tony Ferguson currently holds the interim belt, and UFC president Dana White has told the media that “this is the fight to be made”.

Will McGregor defend his belt further his claim to be the best mixed martial artist of all-time?

Or will he be swallowed by fame and the pressures that come with it?

For more information on Notorious, visit the film’s website.

Pickett relishing underdog status

Nothing in the fight world is more endearing than the lifer who has toiled in the shadows, dreaming of that one shot at greatness. 

Britain’s Brad Pickett gets his ‘Rocky’ moment next month when he faces former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber.

Pickett is skilled and resilient, and his December 17th showdown in Sacramento is the chance for him to throw a spanner in the works, with Faber planning a final victory before hanging up his gloves in front of his hometown crowd.

As Pickett enters the octagon in Sacramento’s new downtown arena, he will be alone under the lights and a long way home.

The atmosphere will be raucous as thousands of shirtless men sing for Faber under a swaying thicket of upraised arms.

Underdog 

Faber (33-10) enters the bout riding the toughest stretch of his lengthy mixed martial arts career.

The 37 year old, nicknamed the ‘California Kid’ has struggled in his previous fights and has only sandwiched a victory over Frankie Saenz before losing to Frankie Edgar, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and most recently Jimmie Rivera at UFC 203.

Pickett, meanwhile, is just as desperate as his American counterpart as the East Londoner risks being trapped in a spiral of defeat, having lost four of his last five bouts.

The slugger was submitted via triangle choke against Iuri Alcantara at UFC 204 in Manchester, and a win over Faber is of huge importance according to the 38-year-old.

“This fight is huge for me,” admits Pickett. “I want to cause an upset – I’m a professional fighter and that’s what I’ll look to do always.

“There’s no pressure on me… I’m just focused on turning up and spoiling his party”

“I have to come forward a lot but I’m in a situation where I’ll be a massive underdog and fighting him in his hometown.

“But I think I can impose myself on anyone against the world. Faber should be worried about my power and he’s going to try to grapple and wrestle me but I need to focus on my wrestling defence a little bit.

“I’m confident and I feel I can knock him out. We have the same style and we’ve been in the fight game a long time, so there’s not a lot of things we haven’t seen before. I think it’ll be a competitive fight.

“Faber is retiring as well so everything will be all about him, so I’m basically going there to make the numbers up. There’s no pressure on me and I like that because I’m not there for him. I’m just focused on turning up and spoiling his party.”

Preparation 

Nicknamed ‘One Punch’, Pickett is known for an exciting style that has garnered him seven WEC/UFC fight night bonuses, including five ‘Fight of the Night’ honours.

Pickett (25-12) is one of the UFC’s most likeable fighters but after talking to key players Dana White and Sean Shelby about not being at the forefront of the company as he’d like, the fight against Faber got arranged swiftly.

“I spoke to Dana White about not being in the main picture as I would have liked to be,” says the 38-year-old.

“Then the next day Sean Shelby gave me a call and we discussed my fight against Iuri Alcantara and then at the end of the call he asked if I wanted to fight Faber next month in Sacramento.

“I was ecstatic and instantly thought it would be a great opportunity to test myself against an opponent like Faber.”

His preparation for the contest has been gruelling but Pickett says he is in really great shape ahead of the fight.

“Training is going really well,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve gone from fight schedule to fight schedule and I’ve been in really good shape.

“I was obviously already in great shape from my last fight against Alcantara but now it’s just a case of ticking over and recharging the batteries a little bit.

“I’ve done a lot of my camp here in the UK and I will finish my camp in America so things are going nicely.”

Regrets 

Pickett still harbours regrets about his loss to Alcantara at UFC 204. The fight was a great spectacle for the fans, but in hindsight the Brit believes it was a one he shouldn’t have taken.

The former Cage Rage British Featherweight champion accepts that fighting a southpaw of Alcantara’s ability was a mistake.

“The fight was a tough one for me,” he admits. “I always knew that I didn’t like southpaws. I’d never fought one before.

“Whenever I trained with a southpaw, I wasn’t fond of it, and I had to train hard for the [Alcantara] match-up.

“I didn’t understand how much of a completely different game it was. I was up for the challenge before but I would never fight a southpaw again.”

Striking style 

Things could have turned out differently as Pickett had been scheduled to fight Henry Briones, but his opponent picked up an injury. He admits that he wanted to fight so badly that he wasn’t really bothered about who it was against.

Pickett alongside boxing and UFC journalist Gareth A Davies

“The fight wasn’t for me. The striking style was hard and he’s massive but I would never turn down a fight regardless.

“After Briones pulled out, I got offered three other fights.

“I said yes to them all but they started pulling out as it got closer to fight night, I thought man I need to get a fight booked. I then got offered Iuri and I said fuck it, I’ll take it.

“I was in camp getting ready for a fight and I wanted to make sure I had one, so I wasn’t in a position where I was going to say no to anyone.

“The fight was the worst possible outcome. I’ve lost fights before but I didn’t get a chance to do anything and that really sucked so I was happy to get straight back in there with this fight against Faber.”

Ambitions 

Pickett’s will to win still burns brightly after a long career in which he has given his all and earned notable wins against the likes of Demetrious Johnson, acknowledged as one of the best fighters in the world.

His fight against Faber will earn him the chance to shock the world again and Pickett insists that he will leave everything in the octagon on fight night.

“My style has always been the same,” he says. “I’ve always gone for it and I will again against Faber. I’m definitely going to get to work and keep the pressure on him.

“I want to use my brute power and hopefully put on a good show in front of the American public. My main objective is to win and spoil Faber’s party and once the fight is over, I just want to spend some time with my family and enjoy the festive period.”

You can follow Brad Pickett on Twitter and Instagram at @One_Punch

The rise and rise of UFC

Once seen as a brutal, bloody and barbaric sport with murky if not borderline illegal ‘cage fighting’ origins, UFC is now watched by millions around the world.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship was devised to discover the most effective martial art in bouts with minimal rules between competitors from different combat disciplines, and is now the face of mixed martial arts (MMA) — a term first used by TV critic Howard Rosenberg after UFC 1 in 1993.

“23 years after its inaugural event at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, UFC has evolved into a global phenomenon”

Since then, UFC has become the largest promotion company in MMA, absorbing rivals such as Pride, World Extreme Cagefighting, Strikeforce and the International Fight League in the process.

Some 23 years after its inaugural event at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, UFC has evolved into a global phenomenon, sweeping across the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe on its journey to becoming the sporting powerhouse we know it as today.

So why is UFC becoming such a big thing in the UK?

UFC roster

From better accessibility to promotion via social media, there are various explanations to why UFC is gaining more recognition in the UK. But the roster of the number one MMA promotion, ultimately, represents its largest pull.

In recent years, the likes of Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes, have all produced jaw-dropping moments in the most incredible of fights to help put UFC and MMA on the map.

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Likewise, UFC’s roster of exceptional female fighters, which includes Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg to name a few, has also been good advertisement for the brand and sport.

However, two fighters in particular stand out from the rest as individuals who are heavily responsible for UFC’s growth in popularity both in the UK – Conor McGregor and Michael Bisping.

McGregor

McGregor is largely considered right now as one of the best fighters in the UFC and arguably the MMA promotions’ most popular figure among fans.

“McGregor’s behaviour outside the Octagon has helped him transform into a fighter that even non-UFC fans want to follow”

Dublin-born McGregor made his UFC debut in 2013 against Marcus Brimage, instantly making a name for himself after knocking out the American in the first round.

The 28-year-old has since elevated himself to the top of the UFC, reigning as the UFC featherweight champion and featuring in several of UFC’s most viewed fights of all-time.

UFC 194: Aldo v McGregor, UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz and UFC 202: Diaz v McGregor 2, rank as three out of the four most sold UFC pay-per-view cards ever, showing the pulling power the Irishman has brought to Dana White’s organisation.

©Wikimedia Commons

McGregor’s record of 20 wins and three losses, which includes a UFC featherweight championship victory over Aldo after a record (13 seconds) title fight first-round knockout, shows how good a fighter he is and why everyone is eager to watch him in action.

But the fighting skills of ‘The Notorious’ are not the only draw.

McGregor’s behaviour outside the Octagon has helped him transform into a fighter that even non-UFC fans want to follow.

His arrogant persona, X-rated rants and often amusing social media posts, grab the attention of many and sway them towards taking an interest in his career.

Bisping

In addition to McGregor, Bisping, who successfully defended his UFC middleweight championship against Dan Henderson at UFC 204, has played a huge part in helping UFC to increase its fanbase in the UK, having been raised in Manchester.

©Wikimedia Commons: Michael Bisping(L)

But as well as influencing fans, MMA writer Nick Strickland also believes Bisping has had a huge impact on UK-based MMA fighters and has opened a gateway for them as a result of his success.

“I think without Bisping the UK scene and the fighters would not have been given the right opportunities to fight around the world,” Strickland said.

“I’m not saying the other fighters are not good enough and would not have made it, but it was Bisping who brought the attention to the United Kingdom.

“He opened the doors for all the UK fighters as we all saw when he coached in the Ultimate Fighter: Team UK vs. Team USA, a show that was dominated by the UK athletes.”

Other promotions

Thanks to fighters such as McGregor and Bisping, UFC has made its mark in the UK, but Strickland suggests there’s also room for other MMA promotions to gain an audience.

“They [UFC] usually hold about 90% of the talent right now but saying that Bellator MMA has a phenomenal roster of fighters who could give UFC fighters a run for their money on any given day,” the MMA writer said.

“Local shows are where the talent is grown so promotions like Cage Warriors, UCMMA and now ACB Fighting League are super important for the growth of the sport here and around the world. Either one of these promotions, with the right roster of fighters and shows could make its mark in the UK market.”

Since 2009, UFC programming has reached over 1.1 billion television households across the world, according to Forbes.

And while it may not yet be able to produce a fight that could match the viewing figures of a Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao or potential Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko bout in boxing, UFC’s popularity continues to grow within the UK and around the rest of the world.

Featured Image: ©BogoGames