Conor McGregor And The Power Of Now

Christian Petersen|Zuffa LLC

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time - past and future - the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is." -- Eckhart Tolle Inside of the cage, where the lights shine bright, where the crowd cheers deafeningly, and where the cameras forgive nothing, many great men and women have crumbled.
The nerves a fighter faces when entering any cage, let alone the UFC's Octagon, are unimaginable for the average person. I will not pretend to understand all of the negative thoughts and all of the nagging worries that may go through a fighter's mind before they compete. In a sport where the price of losing is far greater than just an ego hit, one would have to be practically insane to go in there with no worries whatsoever. Damage to one's physical body and long term mental health is at risk, and public humiliation that comes with a devastating loss is inevitable. In a sport with the highest of stakes, it is truly remarkable when an athlete comes along who is able to free themselves from the negativity and the distress that their mind creates. An athlete with this rare sense of presence, who also possesses all of the technical and physical tools required to compete at the highest level of the sport is a marvel to behold. Enter UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Equipped with a bomb of a left hand, a long reach for his division and a varied, unorthodox striking skill set, McGregor would be a force even without the mentality he has. But many dangerous strikers have entered the octagon and been eclipsed by the moment, overwhelmed by the "what ifs," and have not performed anywhere near to their full potential. There are many fighters who are legendary in the gym but fall apart in the cage because of pressure. McGregor's head coach John Kavanagh has commented that McGregor is quite the opposite; a fighter who is good in training, but who performs at a whole new level when the spotlight is upon him. So what is it that has led McGregor to rise to the occasion and to time and time again produce spectacular performances?  I believe that it is McGregor's embrace of the present moment that allows him to perform with cool, calm precision. Presence is an absolute prerequisite to accuracy and good shot selection in striking; if one is distracted by worries and other outside thoughts, one's capacity to make the kind of split second decisions required in MMA drastically diminishes.

Jeff Bottari|Zuffa LLC

McGregor engages in a huge amount of taunting and baiting his opponents before he fights them, but has explicitly stated that he does not get emotionally invested in these verbal exchanges.  His trash talk prior to the fight builds him up as an arrogant antagonist in the mind of his opponent, putting a huge amount of pressure on the opponent to win. Dustin Poirier has commented that he came into his bout against McGregor overly emotional and that his performance was severely hindered by the Irishman's pre-fight antics. McGregor's mental edge is what played a big part in his stunning victory over Jose Aldo last weekend. Aldo's nervousness was apparent from the walk-in and it showed in his performance; he appeared to be in a rush to finish the Irishman as quickly as possible, running in with a left hook only to get caught with a sharp counter left by McGregor. McGregor stated in his post-fight interview that, compared to his fight with Chad Mendes, he "was a hell of a lot more in the moment and just enjoying the whole process," which indicates that McGregor has now found even more comfort in the extremely high pressure situation of fighting for a world title than before. His extraordinary ability to remain present under fire is a wonder to behold and allows him to fight with greater clarity than just about anyone competing today. Conor McGregor's powerful left hand would be nowhere near as effective without the accuracy with which he throws it, accuracy which is afforded by his intense sense of presence.

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