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UFC 189 Aftermath: For Slavery Fled, O Glorious Dead, When You Fell in the Foggy Dew

Us MMA fans are a diverse and passionate bunch, which is why it’s truly a rare occurrence to see us unite in agreement over a given topic no matter how trivial. Whether it’s a simple fight pick or our reactions to something bigger — the Reebok deal, for instance — you will always find a broad range of reactions, from positive to incredibly negative (also, hurtful, misogynistic, and erroneously punctuated), strewn across every forum and comments section on the web. But not with UFC 189.

In my 5 years of covering the sport, I don’t know if I’ve *ever* witnessed an event quite like UFC 189. Over the course of the night, our reactions unanimously shifted from excited, to shocked, to overwhelmed, to an emotion that is not yet defined but can best be described as “HWAHHHNNNGGG!!!!” We were *all* the Just Bleed guy by the end of Saturday night, and two days later, I’m still not ready to wash the paint off my chest. It just feels right, you know?

UFC 189 was the kind of event that made us remember why we’ve stuck by this sport as its biggest promotion has made one disastrous decision after another. It was the kind of event that almost transcended combat sports in its ability to entertain and captivate. It was the kind of event that Matt Saccaro couldn’t find any holes in, you guys.

I guess we should talk about Conor McGregor now, eh? At just 26 years old (and in less than two years), McGregor has accomplished more in the UFC than arguably any athlete before him — and before you freak out, understand that I’m talking about his accomplishments from a marketing perspective. The interim belt aside, McGregor has shattered damn near every attendance record the UFC has ever had — from weigh-ins to press conferences to Saturday’s sold out, 7.2 million dollar gate – and he did it against a replacement opponent. He’s united an entire nation of perhaps the most passionate fight fans of all, made believers out of (most of his) his doubters, brought megastar musicians to the octagon, and capped it all off with a simply remarkable performance against Chad Mendes on Saturday night.

Of course, McGregor’s rise to fame did not come without its costs. In a sobering moment following his win over Mendes, McGregor finally allowed his warrior facade (a poor choice of words, perhaps, but you get what I’m saying) to fade away, breaking down in tears as the interim strap was placed around his belt. In the evening’s post-fight press conference, McGregor was even more upfront, revealing that he had only spent 19 days home in the past year while breaking his back to promote a fight that has yet to come to fruition. He battled through injuries of his own and sacrificed more than most of us could ever imagine to compete last weekend, and my God did it pay off.

It’s so easy to forget (and MMA fans often do) that, behind the perpetual hype and trash talk, guys like McGregor are human beings trying to earn their way like the rest of us. And again, at just 26 years old, McGregor seems wise to this beyond his years. If the Irishman’s humble, inspiring words about there being “no such thing as a self-made man” in Saturday’s press conference didn’t make a fan out of you, nothing that McGregor will do probably ever will.

But of course, every great decision the UFC makes must inevitably be followed by an equally terrible one, and placing McGregor opposite Urijah Faber on the next season of TUF is about as boneheaded an idea as the UFC could have come up with. Putting your hottest prospect on the shelf for 6 months to film the umpteenth incarnation of a forgotten reality show…against a guy he won’t even fight in the end? STOP TRYING TO MAKE TUF A THING, UFC. IT’S OVER. That goddamn show is becoming like a zombie horde in its ability to continue ruining lives long after it has died.

But that’s about as far as I’m willing to dip into the negative. Instead, I suppose I should talk about the inevitable “Fight of the Year”-earning welterweight title fight between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald, but instead, I’ll just shares this moment that perfectly encapsulates my feelings about the fight:

Robbie. F*cking. Lawler.

What else did we learn on Saturday? Jeremy Stephens still hits like a truck, Gunnar Nelson hits a lot harder than Brandon Thatch probably gave him credit for, and Thomas Almeida fought through adversity and proved why everyone is so high on him right now. What a goddamn night for this brilliant, disheartening, uplifting, brutally frustrating, awesome sport.

The complete list of results for UFC 189 is below.

Main card
Conor McGregor def. Chad Mendes via second-round TKO
Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald via fifth-round TKO
Jeremy Stephens def. Dennis Bermudez via third-round TKO
Gunnar Nelson def. Brandon Thatch via submission (rear-naked choke)
Thomas Almeida def. Brad Pickett via second-round KO

Undercard
Matt Brown def. Tim Means via submission (guillotine)
Alex Garcia def. Mike Swick via unanimous decision
John Howard def. Cathal Pendred via split decision
Cody Garbrandt def. Henry Briones via unanimous decision
Louis Smolka def. Neil Seery via unanimous decision
Cody Pfister def. Yosdenis Cedeno via unanimous decision

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