Conor McGregor would likely never admit it if he was, after all, this is a guy who’s proclaimed he doesn’t give an eff on more than one occasion. But could the UFC’s stars recent comments signal he’s starting to feel the backlash from fans and his fellow fighters?

Recently McGregor (for the time being) quickly blazed into headlines, after he made the following comments on Instagram:

I am fighting again. Period.
I am the best at this.
I put my name forward to step in at UFC 222 to face Frankie Edgar when Max Holloway pulled out, but I was told there wasn’t enough time to generate the money that the UFC would need.
I was excited about bouncing in last minute and taking out the final featherweight, without all the rest of the stuff that comes with this game.
Please respect the insane amount of work outside the fight game that I have put in.
On top of the fighting.
I am here.
It is on them to come and get me. Because I am here.
Yours sincerely,
The Champ Champ™

Now, the part about UFC 222 is what really popped throughout the MMA world, and for good reason. The consensus has been that McGregor’s days of competing at 145 are behind him. Even if Edgar had agreed to a fight him at 155, since McGregor hasn’t fought since 2016, it wouldn’t have been pretty shocking to see him taking a short notice bout (against a legend like Edgar no less).

But, perhaps the bigger story / question here, is whether McGregor’s starting to feel the heat he’s been receiving from critics, fighters, and increasingly, a larger number of fans. Let’s assume McGregor did in fact offer to step in at UFC 222: why do so? When the reported plan previously was not to fight again until after summer? Why would you be willing to take this risk? Why relay this offer publicly?

A reasonable theory is that McGregor is looking to shore up his reputation, at a time when he’s been repeatedly accused of ducking his responsibilities as the UFC’s lightweight champ. When McGregor won the lightweight title back in 2016, by taking out Eddie Alvarez, voices regarding whether he’s truly been vetted in the Octagon, were at an all-time low.

But, fast forward to today, and the voices sounding that narrative seem to be increasing by the day. Note that McGregor also felt the need to proclaim he’s “the best”, and to ask folks to “respect” what he’s done “outside the fight game.”

So what could this mean moving forward? Could McGregor even be willing to step in at UFC 223? If Tony Ferguson or Khabib Nurmagomedov goes down? Before he made these recent comments, chances are most people would say no. But are those folks quite as certain now?