ByElias Cepeda, writer at
Elias Cepeda

This year’s raucous and absurd presidential election has put professional fact-checkers into overdrive. Though the stakes are much lower in the lead-up to UFC 205’s lightweight title fight between champion Eddie Alvarez and challenger Conor McGregor, both men have made a number of audacious claims throughout their weeks of trash talk.

So, we at Champions decided to examine some of Alvarez’s and McGregor’s more bold statements made during Thursday’s media teleconference to sort through the fiction and let you know how truthful their claims, accounts and predictions likely are.

First up, Alvarez.

Claim: Eddie Alvarez promised to become the best lightweight champion in UFC history and to make the promotion “great again.”

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

"It'll start with [McGregor], but then, I will make UFC great again and I will continue to fight the number one guys who belong here. I sincerely felt I deserved a break. This [fight against McGregor] is my break, and then we'll get back to some real sh-t and get back to fighting the real number one contenders, who fight the best guys and earn their way to the title, not the guys who have a funny accent and sell tickets.”

First, millions of Irish people and their allies will rightly bristle at the notion that McGregor’s accent is “funny.” Other than that, what Alvarez seems to be getting at is not that the UFC or its lightweight division in particular has a low quality of opposition, but rather that deserving contenders get passed over for whoever is most popular – say someone like McGregor.

The UFC certainly does not market, promote or give opportunities based solely on merit. Promises of title shots are often rescinded with no offered rationale other than perceived marketability of match ups, the UFC currently isn’t bound to any outside rankings system to determine mandatory challengers as much of pro boxing is, and the most popular fighters certainly often get opportunities that others don’t (take, for example, Ronda Rousey coming back to an automatic title-shot after a lopsided loss and extended absence, or Conor McGregor holding on to his featherweight title eleven months after winning it, but without yet defending it, and competing for the third consecutive time outside his class).

The lightweight division has a long list of deserving contenders who deserve a shot at Alvarez, but McGregor is getting his chance at history and holding two titles at once, and no one can honestly say his star power isn’t why. What is interesting about Alvarez’s criticism is that he himself called for McGregor to jump the line and fight him.

So, while Alvarez may be right that certain fighters get opportunities from the UFC based on things other than strict fighting merit, he isn’t exactly helping that problem by encouraging the UFC to give McGregor a shot at him.

So, Alvarez doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to change the UFC’s direction. He’s a yeoman but he’d be stupid to turn down the biggest-name fights available to him as champion, regardless of whether or not they are the most “deserving.”

Verdict: False

Claim: Conor McGregor says he’ll "retire" Alvarez

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

“I will go out there and I will punish him for that – for those words that he’s saying. I’m going to retire him on this night. He’s been through a hell of a lot of wars. He’s been dropped continuously. I can see it in him. You can see the effects of war on his face. And, respecting him, he’s a fighter. Nothing but respect, but this will be it for you. You’re going to be badly, badly hurt, Eddie, and I mean that. It’s over for you. You will not fight, again, after this. You will not look the same, you will not think the same, and that’s it.”

Like most good rhetoric, McGregor’s above claim has enough good sense in it to make his prediction believable. Alvarez is about as old as a healthy 32 year-old can be, given that he’s fought the best of the best for 13 years.

McGregor is also correct in saying that Alvarez has been through a lot of grisly cage battles. What that means is that he’s likely sustained a good amount of concussive and sub concussive damage to his brain.

With that taken into consideration, any pro fighter who has fought for over a decade may be a breath away from having to hang up their gloves at any given moment. Alvarez fits that profile.

What we also know about fighters is that they rarely walk away when they should. So, even if McGregor hurts Alvarez, and regardless of if the legendary pro should retire, soon, because of health, I wouldn’t bet on him choosing to retire so soon after reaching the mountaintop.

Verdict: We shall see, but likely false.

Claim: McGregor says he’ll “rearrange” Alvarez’s face

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

“I’m going to really, truly rearrange his facial structure. His wife and kids won’t ever recognize him again.”

Once again, only time will tell. McGregor cut up Nate Diaz’s face but the Stockton soldier has so much scar tissue on his head that he often bleeds, win or lose.

It also doesn’t take much for a nose or jaw to get broken in a fight, especially at the end of a power punch from someone like McGregor or Alvarez, so, technically, there’s a good chance both men’s faces could need some restructuring and healing after UFC 205.

McGregor doesn’t have a long history of breaking facial bones, for what it is worth, however. Handing out knockouts is another matter, altogether.

I’m betting this fight ends in a TKO or KO, and it’s a toss-up between either man. So, McGregor could is likely as Alvarez to score a brutal knockout.

There isn’t a lot of history to suggest that he will actually permanently disfigure the lightweight champion, though.

Verdict: False

Claim: McGregor says UFC 205 has already broken all-time Madison Square Garden ticket sale and gate records

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

“Now here we are, close to the New York debut in Madison Square Garden. We broke the Ali vs. Frazier attendance of 21,000, I believe I’m hearing that. And we broke the gate record of 14 million set by Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield. So they’re two amazing contests, two historical fights, and I’ve broken both. So it’s an honor to do that and that’s it.”

McGregor may being told that UFC 205 has already sold enough tickets to out-score 1971’s “Fight of the century” between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier and also broken the gate dollar record of over $14 million hauled in by Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis’ first heavyweight title unification bout in 1999, but we can’t know for certain if that is true. The Garden has a basketball game capacity of just over 18,000 but more space is opened up for boxing events and also have been for UFC 205.

If UFC 205 has already outsold Ali vs. Frazier, it still hasn’t sold out. As of Friday afternoon, Madison Square Garden’s official website still listed tickets for sale for UFC 205.

After the event, we can get a more accurate and closer to final look at how UFC 205 will rank in dollars made at the gate and tickets sold. For now, all we know is that they’re close to the top, historically.

Verdict: Yet Unknown

Claim: McGregor saying that no one else has been an MMA world champion of two different weight divisions, simultaneously, as he is trying to do, at UFC 205

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

“I am the all-time great. When I raise those two belts, show me who else done it. Show me him because I don’t see him.”

McGregor should then look in Dan Henderson’s direction. The legendary slugger won the Pride 183lbs title after a controversial split-decision victory over Murilo Bustamante on December 31, 2005.

Then, while still champion at that weight, Henderson jumped up in weight and knocked reigning Pride 203lbs champ Wanderlei Silva out on Feb. 24, 2007. Though the Pride promotion is now defunct after the UFC purchased it and stopped promoting events, its titles were undoubtedly considered true, global, championships. During the years the UFC and Pride both ran events, their respective titles held “world” statuses just as organizations like the WBO and WBC each do in boxing, now.

Only one person has ever done what Conor McGregor is attempting to do at UFC 205 – become an MMA champion in two divisions, at once – but he certainly wouldn’t be the first.

Verdict: False

Claim: McGregor says every other athlete does what they are told by the UFC, except for him

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

“Everyone does what they’re f-cking told – except me… Nobody has no say in this but me. Everyone else does what they’re told, and rightfully f-cking so.”

As bold as McGregor is in many respects, and as much as he has appeared to resent some of the UFC’s decisions in recent months, he has so far in his UFC career been a company man. In fact, when it comes to UFC brass’ requests and demands, Conor McGregor has been one of the most agreeable athletes in the promotion.

McGregor has repeatedly fought different opponents on short notice when asked, fought up in weight class, fought with alarming frequency, and all while adhering to an uncompensated-for breakneck media tour schedule, including even flying cross-country during fight weeks and while cutting weight to do interviews. The Irishman is so good at saying ‘yes’ to anything the UFC tells him to that they blew a gasket when he made even the small request of adjusting a media tour schedule ahead of UFC 200.

McGregor has talked openly about wanting to be a promotional partner with the UFC, and disagrees with UFC president Dana White that he’ll have to automatically vacate one title should he beat Alvarez. So far, however, he’s largelt done exactly as he has been told.

There are other active UFC fighters like Donald Cerrone and Mark Hunt planning to unionize their peers and suing the promotion. In comparison to their independence, McGregor’s own go-along-to-get-along attitude is even more striking.

McGregor may be bristling against the UFC’s perceived authority more and more, and want to strike out in a more independent way, but only time and his actions will show whether or not he ever will.

Verdict: False

Claim: Alvarez saying all of McGregor's opponents so far have been weak

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

“The guys he’s picked to fight; these are subpar guys…Even Nate [Diaz] is a .500 lightweight and everybody in the lightweight division has beat Nate and he had trouble doing that. The guys that he’s faced are nothing of the caliber of fighter that I am.”

“He’s fought a bunch of chumps. If I had the resume he had, if they gave me that resume, if I was that lucky to get them opponents, the same sh-t would happen, if not worse. Styles make matchups. When you pick the style you want to fight, then sh-t, you get mismatched, you can knock everyone out.”

“I can go to the supermarket right now and punch a guy in the mouth and look like a superhero,” Alvarez continued. “But when you fight the best guys in the world, the true best guys in the world, it’s going to be tough. The fight’s going to be tough. Sh-t’s going to change. You’re not going to look as good.”

Conor McGregor’s opponents like to deride those who came before them as lackluster. The reality is that McGregor has fought and beaten some of the best in the world, especially at featherweight.

McGregor’s resume certainly doesn’t have the depth and length of someone like Alvarez’s or Jose Aldo, but to say that he hasn’t fought anyone great is ludicrous. Let’s start with Diaz – Diaz may have won and lost about the same amount of bouts up at welterweight, but at lightweight he’s put together great win streaks against world champs and top contenders, and challenged for the world title.

Overall, Diaz’s lightweight winning percentage is closer to 65%, not 50% as Alvarez incorrectly stated. Fans can point out that Nate really got the better of McGregor over their two fights, but Conor certainly fought him, and Diaz is certainly elite.

Other than Diaz, McGregor has faced and stopped Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo. It is true that Mendes was a gigantic disadvantage when he fought McGregor since he replaced Aldo on just days’ notice and was not in shape for a fight, but “Money” is one of the best featherweights in WEC or UFC history, and was a nightmare stylistic matchup for McGregor with his wrestling.

McGregor detractors may think his win over Aldo last December was a fluke since it took him only 13 seconds to KO the Brazilian legend, but there was nothing dirty or controversial about his win. At the end of the day, Conor McGregor faced the best featherweight in MMA history, a man who had not previously lost in about a decade, and knocked him out.

Conor McGregor has yet to face and beat as many greats as many of his peers, but the young man is not standing on top false of flimsy wins.

Verdict: False

Conclusion: Both men have not been above stretching or tearing apart the truth to promote their own accomplishments while demeaning those of their rival’s, in order to get in their heads. Neither Alvarez nor McGregor are winning any truth-telling contests ahead of UFC 205, but they will still get to settle things the old fashioned way – with their fists.


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