Speaking to Lewis Ritson on the weekend of Conor McGregor’s return got my mind whirring in a way I imagine only mine could. Before I dissect the similarities between two of my favourite fighters, there are some obvious differences. Conor McGregor is a 2 weight world champion in what is widely perceived as the premier MMA organisation. Lewis is yet to even reach world level. And while I wouldn’t want to put words in the Sandman’s mouth, I imagine he would swap bank balances with the Dubliner. And I don’t envisage a Ritson whisky any time soon.
However, despite the differences, there are certainly similarities. For example, the sudden impact in which both men were thrust into the limelight acts as both a blueprint and a cautionary tale for aspiring fighters around the globe. As discussed with Lewis on our recent podcast, there are many ways to forge your legacy in combat sports and both Ritson and McGregor are a shining example of how to capture public attention and admiration. Bring excitement.
While their personalities could not be more different, both men smashed their way through the opposition in devastating fashion. This just shows that although there is more than one way to skin a cat (outside of the ring / cage), there has to be substance to whatever style you have. The “Notorious” one is, ermm, notorious for his brash trash talk and cocky predictions but as rightly argues, he backed it up. Especially during his tear through the featherweight division.
Ritson did similar to any British lightweight that stood in his way. As objectively as I try to look at combat sports, it was impossible not to get caught up and carried along by the wave of hype. If only just a little bit. While McGregor talked his own good game, the slightly more introverted Ritson had master promoter Eddie Hearn to generate Geordie hysteria. The Geordie Golovkin moniker (ridiculous even at the time), combined with the brutal knockouts had people talking prematurely of World titles and stadium fights.
Without the dramatic nature of their respective title chases, neither would have been as well received. Imagine McGregor’s press conference antics if he wrestled opponents to the floor and lay there for 15 minutes. Or if Ritson edged his way to points victories. I am a huge advocate of different styles and tactics in both sports, yet there is a direct correlation between a high KO % and a high level of fan interest.
Both men were eventually brought back down to earth with a proverbial bump. A bump in the road of their overall career. They’ve also since responded to defeats to show their mettle and appear to have their careers seemingly back on track. Both have also claimed they’ve learned from past mistakes so who knows what their futures hold?