Commentary: This Saturday is the biggest fight in UFC history, and I'm following every single granular detail on my mobile phone.
Mark SerrelsEditorial Director
Mark Serrels is an award-winning Senior Editorial Director focused on all things culture. He covers TV, movies, anime, video games and whatever weird things are happening on the internet. He especially likes to write about the hardships of being a parent in the age of memes, Minecraft and Fortnite. Definitely don't follow him on Twitter.
And in the 21st century, with all the technology and content platforms at my disposal, I can bathe in this fight. In some ways it is a fight I can't escape. Even if I wanted to.
Which I don't.
McGregor versus Khabib. It takes place Oct. 6 at the
Arena in Las Vegas and it's the biggest, most highly anticipated fight in UFC history. It pits Conor McGregor, the UFC's biggest Pay-Per-View draw, against Khabib Nurmagamedov, possibly the most dominant fighter in the sport. Khabib is not only unbeaten in 26 fights but, according to most, hasn't lost a single minute of a single round in the octagon.
It's almost certainly the most compelling fight the UFC has ever made. A strange, multifaceted spectacle with layers of narrative attached. It's a tale of extremes: McGregor, the brash, charismatic Irishman with a penchant for picking the round and method by which he will dispose of his opponents. Khabib, the humble (yet destructive) Dagastani Muslim.
McGregor, the clean, inventive counter-striker with knockout power in his left hand. Khabib, the overwhelming wrestler who suffocates opponents with top pressure.
It's a fight that has everything: Drama, histrionics, skill, stakes. This is a title fight in the UFC's most competitive division, between two world class fighters that despise one another. In April this year McGregor launched a dolly through a bus window because Khabib was sitting inside.
From all angles it's the most important fight in UFC history. I cannot stop thinking about it. And engaging with it.
Everything in my digital life is currently set to McGregor vs. Khabib. And I mean everything. The algorithms are coalescing and I am being indulged on every possible level in the worst possible ways.
Here's what my days currently look like.
I wake up. I grab my
. Before I say hello to my wife I check the MMA subreddit to make sure Khabib and McGregor are injury free and the fight is still happening (last minute cancellations and injuries have become a mainstay in the UFC over the past few years).
Then I get ready for work. I put my headphones on and while walking to the bus stop I listen to multiple MMA podcasts for insights about the fight: stylistic quirks, things to look out for. Will McGregor's subtle footwork make it difficult for Khabib to get into wrestling range? Will Khabib comfortably walk him to the cage, wrestle from the clinch and obliterate him on the floor?
This is a unique fight where every take is possible and trust me, I have listened to every take.
Eventually I'll hop onto the bus. If the podcast is good, I might keep listening. If I get a seat I catch up on YouTube. I'll watch Embedded, the UFC's fly-on-the-wall documentary series. I'll watch fan-created hype trailers. I'll watch breakdown videos.
My phone is a McGregor vs. Khabib machine.
I follow MMA journalists on Twitter, MMA fighters on Instagram. I track the news as it happens. Conor posts a training montage on Instagram, I watch it and study every frame. I hit "translate" on Khabib's Russian tweets. I watch old fights on UFC's Fight Pass subscription service. I ask myself questions:
"Could McGregor have stuffed that single leg takedown?"
"Could Khabib's chin have withstood that left hand counter?"
I wake up early to watch livestreamed press conferences and intense staredowns. I read terrible comment sections analysing every flinch. Is McGregor in Khabib's head? Is McGregor motivated? Is McGregor too motivated? Is Khabib nervous. Is McGregor drunk? (The answer is "probably".)
(There are YouTube videos delving into the minute psychological details of McGregor's staredown technique. I am not joking about this. I am ashamed to say I have watched them. I have watched everything.)
Conor McGregor versus Khabib Nurmagamedov is a 21st century fight and I am consuming it in the 21st century way. The sheer density of the content, my ability to consume it in such a tremendously granular way -- none of this would have been possible 10 years ago. Or even five years ago.
This isn't just a fight, it's a conduit through which platforms deliver content. A hivemind of algorithms designed to keep me occupied in every single waking hour.
And I absolutely love it. It also terrifies me. Because on Sunday night, when the fight is over and one man's hand is raised in victory, I'm going to look at my mobile phone and I'm going ask one single question.