All it took was thirteen seconds to change the very world as we know it. Thirteen seconds to send Conor McGregor over the edge of greatness. It only took thirteen seconds for things to change forever.
Everybody knows what happened; UFC 194, December 12th 2015; McGregor took out the only UFC Featherweight Champion ever, Jose Aldo. Countless amounts of promos made, an entire world tour, and it all came to an end in just 13 measly seconds.
This would spark the beginning of a new era for MMA. McGregor would go on to win a second title, at Lightweight. He would box with Floyd Mayweather and break the record on PPV buys; not just for the UFC, but of all time. He would have a legendary rivalry with Nate Diaz. Conor McGregor was a large part of the reason the UFC was able to sell to Endeavor, and then sign a multi-year deal with ESPN.
However, in another universe, things went differently. If you take a trip through the portal, into a parallel dimension, you can see what could have happened. You can see a world in which Conor not only lost to Aldo, but a world in which the UFC as we know it today, no longer exists.
Let us peer through the looking glass, back to that fateful day in December. Conor opens with a left, ducks the counter of Aldo. Aldo steps forward, looking to blitz and land the left hook. As he does this, McGregor looks to step back, and counter with the left hand. This time though, Aldo beats him to the punch. The left hook Aldo threw, landed; putting Conor out cold.
Following the fight, McGregor was nothing but class. He offered an honest assessment of the performance. At the post fight press conference, he was humble, praised the champ. McGregor would announce his remaining intent to make a run at lightweight, citing how intense the featherweight weight cut had gotten for him.
Now, it may not seem like much. Fighters lose, and bounce back all the time. This was different though. All of the hype behind McGregor fizzled out almost immediately. So an immediate title shot at 155 was not happening. Instead, he took on Michael Johnson. Johnson was coming off a fairly standard loss to Nate Diaz, and would proceed to lose to McGregor as well.
Now that McGregor had some momentum with him at lightweight, he was set to face newly crowned champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Khabib was the number one contender who had just taken out Eddie Alvarez to win the strap. Khabib would unfortunately go on to beat the living bajesus out of McGregor, completely dominating him en route to a fourth round submission. This fight had no rivalry behind it; no bus incident, no heat. It ended up being a decent PPV though, with about 600,000 buys, mostly coming from the Irish fans.
This would spell the end of Conor McGregor’s chances of being a superstar. With that, came an immediate effect. With Ronda gone from the sport, and no other star to make big traffic, Zuffa was unable to sell the UFC.
Desperation began to set in, as the UFC struggled to book the best fights possible, yet there was a clear decline in the sport’s quality. When their broadcast deal ran out, the UFC would try to strike a contract with ESPN. However, with dwindling numbers and a lacklustre roster, no deal was possible. In fact, they were not even able to renew the deal with Fox.
The UFC would only able to stream their events on Fight Pass. This resulted in an even bigger decline in viewership, which led to the promotion being one of the least viewed in the sport. Yet, in an unexpected twist, this would open the door for ONE Championshp to strike a U.S. broadcast deal with Fox, to take the place of the UFC. This resulted in ONE growing into the number one MMA organization in the world.
So this universe is a dark place. It shows how one punch could change everything for the worse. Luckily, this is not the universe that we live in.