Conor McGregor has become one of the UFC’s biggest stars. He started his journey from humble beginnings in Ireland; to the reported drawing of 800,000 to 850,000 PPV buys at UFC 189 in a space of just over two years.
Conor McGregor is best known for his larger then life persona, and a confidence that either you love or hate. With this confidence he carries the weight of his Irish countrymen on his shoulders. His famous saying ‘We’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over’ rings true to the thousands that flock to his fights to show their support as he has become arguably bigger than the sport itself in Ireland. Conor McGregor hasn’t just turned into this character that we see today. He has always been bold, confident, and maybe some will say arrogant since his debut in the UFC back in 2013. He was unlike any of the other fighters there in Stockholm back in April 2013; there was something different about him. Prior to his debut Conor had won both the Lightweight and Featherweight titles in The Cage Warriors promotion. MMA Crazy interviewed Conor that day and as soon as he opened his mouth we knew he was going to be one to watch.
He won his UFC debut via TKO in the first round against Marcus Brimage. In the post fight octagon interview Conor got on the microphone saying, “Dana, 60G’s baby!” He got his wish and earned himself his first knock out of the night. That statement will go down in history as one of the many famous sayings by The Notorious Conor McGregor.
His next fight saw him make his US debut in Boston against Max Holloway for UFC Fight Night 26 in August 2013. Carrying the Irish flag during his walkout we start to see in this fight just how much of a breakout star he was becoming. Apart from the massive Irish support from the Boston crowd, the UFC gave McGregor blackout treatment which is pretty much unheard of for a fighter just coming off his first win in the promotion. His opponent Max Holloway was a replacement for injured Andy Ogle and still remains the only opponent to go to a decision with McGregor. Following the fight it was revealed that Conor had suffered an ACL injury during the fight and would be out of action for ten months to undergo surgery.
During his recovery Conor made an appearance at UFC Fight Night 30 in Manchester, England. After arriving fashionably late, he talks about many subjects including his current injury and his first of many encounters with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Notorious Conor McGregor came back from his ACL injury at the UFC’s first event in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland since 2009. With the popularity of MMA growing in Ireland at a fast rate, tickets sold out within a matter of hours. The bout was first announced as McGregor vs Miller but due to injury, Cole Miller pulled out and was replaced by Brazilian Diego Brandao. The atmosphere in the sold out o2 arena (now the 3 arena) that night was phenomenal. The Irish crowd went wild as all five of their Irish fighters racked up wins that night. Conor defeated Brandao by TKO in the first round just like he had predicted. He made it clear in his post fight octagon interview with Dan Hardy that next on his agenda was football stadiums, and of course the world title.
From what we see of his journey so far its clear Conor is a new breed of fighter in and outside of the octagon. Fighting under his coach John Kavanagh at SBG in Ireland they have a new way of training. Breaking out of the norm, he studies human movement, which becomes apparent when you watch how loose his movement is. But he also plays a mental game with his opponents and this became very clear when he fought Dustin Poirier next at UFC 178 in Las Vegas.
From the very beginning Conor tried to get inside the head of Dustin. This was a fight that had been building ever since Dustin’s teammate Cole Miller pulled out of the fight with Conor in Dublin. This some would say was his first real test; some believed that he had climbed the ladder too quick and he was all talk. But Conor proved any doubters wrong when he defeated Dustin Poirier via first round TKO that night. Conor famously said after that fight, “If one of us go to war, we all go to war” and he was right. As much as 10% of the ticket sales for UFC 178 came from Ireland. He spoke about his desire to ‘Eliminate Chad ‘mini’ Mendes and step in and give the fans what they want. Aldo vs. McGregor. But before we saw that title match he had to get through German Dennis Siver next at UFC Fight Night 59.
With Siver ranked number 10 at that time many people believed that this fight was made to be an easy win for McGregor. Having previously fought a high ranked opponent Dustin Poirier, some were hoping he would face a top three opponent next such as Mendes, Lamas or Edgar. As most predicted, Conor won the one sided war against Siver and was catapulted into a title shot. After the fight was stopped Conor ran out into the crowd, found Jose Aldo and made it clear that he was coming for the featherweight belt. Aldo remained calm during the commotion but this would be the start of arguably one of the biggest rivalries in the history of the sport.
Soon after their encounter, the UFC announced the fight would go ahead as the main event for UFC 189 in Las Vegas during international fight week. A world press tour was also announced for the month of March, one that would see the pair trash talk and square off in front of thousands of fans across five different countries.They began in Brazil, made their way through the US to Canada, stopping in The UK before ending the tour in Conor’s hometown of Dublin. Each press conference and fan event saw it getting more and more heated between the two. Eventually Conor grabs the belt from Jose and holds it in the air, tormenting the Brazilian in front of his Irish fans.
It’s unclear if these series of events effected Jose Aldo mentally as we know Conor plays a mental game. Whether or not he was successful in getting into the head of Jose Aldo is another story, but Aldo did pull out of the bout last minute due to a rib injury caused during sparing. Conor McGregor went on to defeat late replacement Chad Mendes at UFC 189 and became the UFC Interim Featherweight champion. It was an event that will go down in history for not only the fights that night, but for the Irish fans that came in droves, taking over the MGM Grand Garden Area in celebration of Conor’s success. Having spent a long summer in the Vegas heat, Conor recently returned home to Ireland with a hero’s welcome. He was clearly glad to be home but had recently caused a stir at the ‘Go Big’ press conference the day before. The conference was to promote the UFC’s upcoming fights for the rest of year but Conor as always seemed to steal the show! He expressed his feelings on stepping up to lightweight and threw vocal jabs at the current Lightweight Champ Rafael Dos Anjos and Cowboy Donald Cerrone.
It’s fair to say that Conor McGregor’s rise to the top has been a fast one. But a journey filled with dedication, self belief and charisma. His style and technique inside the octagon is unique, and the same could be said for his demeanor outside of it. He truly is one of the UFC’s biggest stars and one the fans love to listen to and support. His future is bright and we may have seen the start of a new rivalry between Cerrone & McGregor as Conor plans to take over the Lightweight division in the near future too. But first he must get through his largely anticipated fight with Jose Aldo to unite the Featherweight belt and see who really is the UFC Featherweight Champion of the World.
This fight is set for UFC 194 at The MGM Grand Garden Arena December 12th.
Written By Louise Green