To create his public persona, Connor McGreggor covers himself in flashy suits and sunglasses. He has a way with indifferent expressions, while remaining subtle and discreet with his taunts. Extroverted and egotistical within his quiet personality, McGreggor was able to find his audience. His fights were secondary early on.
UFC 2 doesn’t “get” McGreggor. It understands how to organically use numbers to simulate an approximation of mixed martial arts, but misses the person and the people. Personas matter to MMA and more so to the business of selling fights.
Missing is MMA’s spontaneity. Head kicks land, punches hit flush. Physics show hair swaying and skin rippling. There’s a notable grimace and a squint of pain. UFC 2’s reduction of grapples and submissions to meters and stick twirls feels unconventional. The punches are authentic, if lifted onto digital mannequins. It’s still about those numbers – the chances of McGreggor being knocked down, even when waylaid with a roundhouse, are low. Randomness makes MMA exciting. There’s not much of that here. There’s not much of anything, actually.
Being a fighter to UFC 2 means selecting an opponent, punching a bag a few times in training camp, then fighting. The real world necessitates weight management, diet adherence, conditioning, and mental preparedness. UFC 2 sports a pop-up to note when you’ve played too many video games (really) and then shortens your training session at random. The errors in judgment are happenstance, weird and abrupt. There are no microphones to build yourself with, either. Bruce Buffer has his shtick, but he’s the only one who speaks. McGreggor isn’t McGreggor without the personality of a pro wrestling character.
UFC 2’s appearance is accurate down to a strip of duct tape on the camera stand. Fans cheer when they should. Mike Goldberg calls a mean fight. EA’s sound design remains best-in-class on that note, even if the nature of videogames means Joe Rogen must call out a “mean head kick” ad nauseum, enough to become hammered were this a drinking game. Even if drunk, UFC 2 exists as an empty shell, a showcase of modern technology’s endless supply of polygons and physics, but the reality of this sport and the people who fight are still missing.