LAS VEGAS >> Gab is just one of Conor McGregor’s many gifts.
The Irish star possesses a punching power that has made him an undisputed world champion in just seven UFC fights. McGregor also has an uncanny ability to predict not only the outcome of a fight, but the manner in which he’ll accomplish his next feat of pugilistic prowess.
McGregor called his shot well before his featherweight title bout with Jose Aldo at UFC 194, vowing he wouldn’t need a full round to stop a champion who hadn’t lost in 10 years. And then he delivered that shot to the side of Aldo’s head to end the fight in just 13 seconds — a little quicker than even he expected.
“Mystic Mac strikes again,” McGregor said.
For as much as McGregor talks, he was sure to get some predictions right. Yet when asked to foresee his own future after he ended Aldo’s 18-fight winning streak, McGregor wasn’t quite ready.
“I’ll give it some time,” McGregor said Saturday night. “It’s Christmas. In the fight game, you travel around, making weight or doing something, and Christmas was taken from me many times. This Christmas was not taken from me, so I get to go home. I’ve put in a hell of a lot of work. It’s been a crazy, crazy year.”
Indeed, McGregor reigns atop the featherweight division and the sport after a remarkable 2015. He won three fights, made untold millions and raised his fame near the heights reached by Ronda Rousey, who will be featured alongside him on the cover of EA Sports’ new UFC video game.
“I think I am the pound-for-pound No. 1,” McGregor said. “I believe there are many great fighters. There are people who do great things, but when you combine it all together, when you combine the whole package, the whole animal that is the fight game, I don’t think there’s nobody that does it better than me.”
And McGregor predicts next year will be even bigger.
McGregor’s next fight will be a title bout at either featherweight or lightweight. McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, has said the weight cut to the 145-pound featherweight limit is becoming too tough on the burly fighter.
After beating Aldo, McGregor confirmed he is interested in the move. He also vowed that he won’t give up his 145-pound belt, instead planning to become a two-division champion.
“There’s no way in hell that I’m vacating my belt,” McGregor said. “There’ll be a belt on one shoulder and a belt on the other shoulder. I understand why previously they would have fighters do that, because many fighters don’t fight as frequently as I do. I’m busy. I stay active. When I go up to lightweight and I take that lightweight belt, I will still be the featherweight champion.”
Meanwhile, Rafael Dos Anjos will defend the lightweight title on Saturday in Orlando against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and both fighters said this weekend that they’re already confident about their chances against McGregor.
“If he comes up to lightweight, he’s going to get hurt,” Dos Anjos said.
McGregor is likely to make his decision based on money. After all, he opened his UFC 194 news conference by noting that the event generated a U.S.-record gate of $10.1 million.
If the popular Cerrone dethrones Dos Anjos, a Cerrone-McGregor fight would be big business — but a featherweight title fight with former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar would also be lucrative.
Wherever he ends up in 2016, McGregor will remain unshakably confident in his fists and their ability to make his wildest predictions come true.
“With these small gloves and with the correct amount of force and correct timing, the human chin can’t take it,” McGregor said. “I said one round. (Aldo) was currently the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the roster, undefeated in 10 years, the company’s only featherweight champion. Who comes in and predicts one-round KOs? And I did.”
Also Saturday night, Luke Rockhold claimed the UFC middleweight title with a bloody fourth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten champion Chris Weidman in front of a frenzied crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Rockhold (15-2) finished his championship victory with brute style, pounding Weidman on the ground late in the third and again in the fourth. When referee Herb Dean finally pulled Rockhold off the bloodied Weidman (13-1), the new champion collapsed face-down on the canvas in relief.
“It’s hard to take this all in,” Rockhold said. “I went through hell to get here, but it’s all worth it now.”
Rockhold, a native of Santa Cruz, California, has stopped his last five opponents.
He seized control of the fight when Weidman attempted to throw a wheel kick in the third round. Rockhold dodged it and took the champ to the ground — the first time Weidman, a renowned wrestler, had ever been taken down in a UFC fight.
“He shouldn’t be trying that kind of stuff on me,” Rockhold said.
Weidman had ruled atop the division since dethroning long-reigning champ Anderson Silva in 2013 and breaking Silva’s leg in the rematch. Injuries limited Weidman’s activity, but Rockhold established himself as the clear No. 1 contender with four straight UFC victories since a testosterone-aided Vitor Belfort stopped him in Rockhold’s only loss in 14 fights since November 2007.
UFC 194 concluded an unprecedented three-day stretch of three fight cards on the Las Vegas Strip.
Yoel Romero won an entertaining split decision over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a meeting of middleweight contenders. Demian Maia also dominated Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson with his peerless jiu-jitsu to win a wide decision, and veteran bantamweight Urijah Faber finished the preliminary bouts with a bruising win over Frankie Saenz.