Over at The 42, Paul Dollery on Conor McGregor’s 2012 fight with Dave Hill:
Since his subsequent rise to the top in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, much has been made of Conor McGregor’s apparent ability to break his opponents mentally before the fight has even begun. Not only is he an immensely talented fighter, but he’s an expert at mind games too.
One wonders how psychological warfare can become such a key component of a contest between two professional fighters. Regardless of whether mind games have been involved, the story always culminates with the athletes settling their differences by locking themselves in a cage and trading blows.
How do words and actions beforehand manage to make that a more intimidating prospect? Hill mentions that he felt “overwhelmed” by McGregor, both at the weigh-ins and during the fight, but how has McGregor managed to master that?
“I think it’s his inner confidence. He’s obviously such a confident bloke. I cleared my head after the weigh-ins but then during the fight he started talking again. He was saying: ‘I’ll go all day with you, you look soft, I’ll go five rounds if you need to.’ Then I started wondering if I should say something back, because I’d never been in that position before.
“So you start thinking of how you’re supposed to react and that kind of messes with your head as well. It’s definitely his confidence and that shows in the way he fights. He’s constantly moving forward, pushing you back and inflicting his game on you, so you don’t get a chance to inflict your game on him.”
Talk all you want about how much you may hate McGregor’s cockiness but he’s the champ and for good reason.