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Sport Science: Conor McGregor

This weekend, a legend is coming out of retirement for UFC 257. And no, we don’t (just) mean Conor McGregor. Ahead of McGregor’s comeback fight against Dustin Poirier, King Penguin is bringing Sport Science back to ESPN! While we’ve been working with the Worldwide Leader on other projects, this marks the return of the OG science segments, and we couldn’t be more pumped.

Starting with our Conor McGregor breakdown, we’ll be working with ESPN to produce a series of pieces breaking down the science behind your favorite athletes’ most prodigious skills. But we didn’t just dust off the cobwebs to bring back Sport Science -- we gave it a brand new look, too. We modernized the logo and pulled the whole project into our Octane Engine, adding in futuristic fonts and textures to match our work on the Wilder v. Fury and Bruce Lee pieces. After UFC, we're looking forward to taking the new-look Sport Science to courts, fields, and anywhere else sports can be played. But first, we made a return to the Octagon to show why McGregor is such a dangerous opponent.

Conor McGregor is one of the most electrifying fighters in UFC, and there’s a lot to unpack in his skill set. What was most noticeable to us, though, was how he always seems to step up and connect on big strikes in crunch time. The numbers backed that up, but then we had to dig into the why and how. We discovered that his reach, speed, and strike selection all play a role in his ability to knock opponents in the blink of an eye. These skills that make McGregor so dominant can be a bit hard to visualize, so we worked to put them into contexts that viewers would be more familiar with. For instance, it sounds strange that McGregor would “miss” with punches on purpose, but when you compare it to a pitcher choosing his spots, it makes a lot more sense. Likewise, release times for quarterbacks are far more relatable than punch speeds. And, anytime we can work in the GOAT Tom Brady, we have to do it.

A lot of our visuals were stylistically consistent with our other breakdowns for ESPN, but we made some cool tweaks to up the ante for the Sport Science revival. We once again bring the audience into the Octagon, but we used a far more accurate 3D model of McGregor, and we’re really working to make these characters more realistic. As always, we stuck with our high tech feel, which was especially appropriate when we go into the neurological part of his skillset. It isn't brain surgery, but by creating a 3D model of the brain, we were able to help viewers better understand the region in charge of arm motion. Most people aren't ready for a lesson in neuroscience when talking about UFC, and our graphics made it more accessible.

After a year away from the sport, Conor McGregor should provide some fireworks in his first fight back. Hopefully, our ESPN Sport Science return can bring that same excitement as you count down the hours to fight night.


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