Duffy, Poirier, and the McGregor Effect
The trickle down from Conor McGregor’s meteoric rise to the top of the UFC featherweight division is having a direct impact on the betting line of his countrymen.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Back in July 2014, interim UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor delivered one of his most infamous sound bites, stating that "we're not just here to take part—we're here to take over," following a TKO victory over Diego Brandao.
Addressing a sold-out crowd in his native Dublin, McGregor affirmed the arrival of MMA's Irish athletes. And while McGregor has climbed the ranks to the pinnacle of MMA superstardom in the year that has passed, his countrymen have taken a slower path on their mixed martial arts journeys, bringing into question the validity of his premonition.
Yes, it's absolutely true that Irish MMA has received increased attention since McGregor's arrival. His teammates at Dublin's Straight Blast Gym, Paddy Holohan, Cathal Pendred, and Aisling Daly, have compiled a combined 8-3 record inside the Octagon. But aside from McGregor, only lightweight Joseph Duffy, who headlines next weekend's UFC Dublin card against Dustin Poirier, is nearing in on a rapid trajectory to the top.
Duffy is an interesting case in MMA. His biggest claim to fame is, of course, being the last man to beat McGregor in competition, submitting "The Notorious" with an arm-triangle inside the first minute during a 2010 bout. "Irish Joe," who at one point left MMA to pursue boxing full time, has looked good inside the Octagon, thus far, with a pair of first round stoppages, but could it be that his value is being overstated as a result of The McGregor Effect?
With such a small sample set, it's difficult to credit McGregor with Duffy's success; however, when looking at the odds, it's certainly a bit suspicious that a fighter still in his first year under the UFC banner would be listed as a -245 favorite over Dustin Poirier, an athlete five years into his Zuffa run, who is not only 8-3 inside the Octagon, but has looked phenomenal in two contests at lightweight.
So what gives?
Sure, there is that whole imperfect science of MMA math that will tell you that because Duffy beat McGregor and McGregor knocked out Poirier last year at UFC 178, Duffy should have an edge. The bout is also taking place in Ireland, which, perhaps, furthers the case for Duffy as the favorite. But if there has ever been a "live dog," an underdog with a legit chance at winning, it is Poirier.
The line on the Duffy-Poirier is, in fact, a result of The McGregor Effect, wherein the odds have been skewed in the direction of an Irish competitor based on McGregor's success, both inside the Octagon and at the sports book.
This, of course, is not to say that Duffy is not a fine competitor. He has looked phenomenal in his first two fights under the UFC banner. But Poirier has youth and experience on his side, not to mention an 83-percent finishing rate.
Again, in MMA, every fighter has a puncher's chance. There is always the possibility that any underdog can come out on top on any given day, but The McGregor Effect runs deeper than just the odds book. It has also found its way to reality TV.
With McGregor currently coaching opposite Urijah Faber on the 22nd season of The Ultimate Fighter, the interim champ's presence was felt after just one episode when his training partner Artem Lobov was brought back into the fold, despite losing a majority decision in the elimination round.
Before McGregor, fighters who failed to make it into the house were cast off, into the dog pile. But since his arrival on the reality TV airwaves, McGregor has rewritten the script for Pilgrim Studios, instituting his own pardon for Lobov, who was granted a second chance to compete for Team Europe.
Again, McGregor's value has phenomenal influence, and when he flexes his might, those around are forced to listen.
So whether it's in the sports book, or on the airwaves, remember The McGregor Effect and the power it holds over rational thought and practice. And let's hope that while bookies and TV producers have bought in on McGregor's over-arching power, MMA's judges and referees are immune from such influence.