Conor McGregor (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)UFC 178: Proof The Mental Game is Everything Matt Juul September 30, 2014 Events, Spotlight If the winners at UFC 178 proved anything on Saturday night, it’s that the mental game is the most important factor in mixed martial arts. “I have a bulletproof mind. There’s nothing that can break me.” – Conor McGregor How else can you explain the absurd rise of Conor McGregor? In just four fights, the Irish featherweight has become a phenom in the UFC, obliterating every challenge the promotion has put in front of him while capturing the public’s attention in a way that the sport has never seen. McGregor’s confidence, work ethic, and most of all, his hyperfocused mental game are the reasons why he’s been catapulted into super stardom. It was a bold move predicting not only the finish, but the round he would get the finish, before his fight with Dustin Poirier. Making good on that promise, though, would require an unshakeable belief, an unwavering conviction, and, that’s exactly what McGregor has. When McGregor envisions something, you can be sure he will do everything in his power to make that vision become a reality. The Poirer bout was proof of that. People seem to undervalue the mental aspect of MMA, focusing more on the physical traits of a fighter. While physicality is important, at the highest level, it’s becoming more and more clear that it takes that extra element, the mental, to truly become a champion. While McGregor showed the value of having supreme confidence in one’s self, he wasn’t the only one to show a strong mind. Dominick Cruz, returning after almost three years away from the Octagon, put on the performance of a lifetime. One wouldn’t have faulted Cruz for showing a little ring rust, but he was better then ever, and you have to give a lot of credit to his mindset. Losing the title due to inactivity would’ve taken the wind out of the sails of a lesser fighter, and back-to-back injuries would have likely been the last nail in the coffin for most. However, Cruz never let that doubt get into his mind, displaying the resilience of a warrior and the heart of a champ. Another example is Cat Zingano. Not only was she returning from a long layoff due to injury, but also the worst tragedy imaginable, losing her spouse Mauricio, who committed suicide in January. That right there would have stopped a lot of people from wanting to be in the limelight again, but Zingano never wavered, and got the job done on Saturday. Based on their unshakeable mental games, I could easily see all three becoming champs – and soon. Regardless, they proved on Saturday that the mental game is difference between being, in the words of McGregor, “a king and a contender,” in the UFC.