Fighter of the Week: Conor McGregor

Conor “The Notorious” McGregor (also Mystic Mac)
Pro Record: 21 wins & 3 losses
Association: SBG Ireland
Weight Class: Featherweight/Lightweight/Welterweight

 

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In this week’s addition of the Fighter of the Week,  we will take a look at none other than “The Notorious” Conor McGregor. It wasn’t enough to be champion at just one weight class. McGregor separated himself from every other fighter in the UFC on Saturday at UFC 205, by making history. He became the first fighter in the organization’s history to hold simultaneous belts in two weight classes.  He absolutely destroyed Lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez in a dominant performance, ultimately winning by 2nd round KO.

McGregor was born in Dublin, Ireland where he also grew up. As with most Europeans, soccer was his sport of choice, playing for the Lourdes Celtic Football Club in his youth. At 12 years old, he started boxing at the Crumlin Boxing Club under former Olympian Phil Sutcliffe, who would eventually help lead McGregor to become an All-Ireland boxing champion. In his late teens, he would move with his family to West Dublin and start a plumbing apprenticeship to work with his father Tony. During this time, he met future UFC fighter Tom Egan and started training MMA together. There’s been publicized stories of Conor and his father getting in fist fights over him wanting to leave his job plumbing for MMA early on. Hindsight being what it is, I’d say the profession change was a good one.

McGregor would have his first fight at the amateur ranks at 18 years old, where he would beat Kieren Campbell by 1st round TKO in the Irish Ring of Truth. This was all it took for Conor to be hooked to the sport and turn professional by signing with the Irish Cage of Truth promotion. Less than a year later, he would begin training at Straight Blast Gym (SBG) under his now coach, John Kavanaugh.

McGregor would have mixed results early on in his career. His striking has always been his strength while his wrestling and BJJ has been seen as his weakness, especially early on. All 10 of his first wins would be by KO/TKO within the first  2 rounds. He would lose two fights by quick submissions early on in his career, one in his first career lightweight fight to fellow Irishman and UFC-vet Joseph Duffy in just38 seconds, in the Cage Warriors promotion. This was McGregor’s first fight in the promotion and given the underwhelming performance his last one in the promotion for another year. In the meantime, McGregor kept scrapping – and dominating – in smaller local promotions like Chaos FC and Celtic Gladiator before eventually getting his shot again in Cage Warriors. This time, McGregor wouldn’t waste his shot, dominating all four of his fights in the promotion on his way to winning both the CWFC Featherweight and Lightweight titles. Sound familiar?

That’s all it took for the UFC to take notice and sign McGregor to a multi-fight deal. At the time, McGregor became only the second fighter from Ireland to compete for the UFC, following friend and SBG teammate Tom Egan. And his UFC debut would be a spectacular one, winning “Knockout of the Night” by knocking out Marcus Brimage.  His second fight was arguably even more impressive as he absolutely dominated current themmatakeover.com #4 ranked featherweight Max Halloway by a lopsided unanimous decision. I’d like to note this is the last loss on Halloway’s resume as he’s been dominating his opponents in the division since. During the fight, McGregor tore his ACL, which required surgery and held him out of action for the next 10 months. Upon coming back, it was more of the same for McGregor, who dominated his next three fights on his way to TKO victories and “Performance of the Night” bonuses against Diego Brandao, Dustin Poirier, and Denis Siver. Actually, he would actually reel off five straight Performance of the Night bonuses counting the Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo Jr fights. You might remember the post-fight action of McGregor after the Siver fight. That’s when he jumped over the octagon and confronted then UFC Featherweight champ, Jose Aldo.

McGregor was expected to face Aldo at UFC 189 for the Featherweight belt, however Also pulled out due to a rib injury. McGregor would remain on the card to face Chad Mendes for the interim belt. McGregor would ultimately win the fight by 2nd round TKO, but it was a good effort by Mendes after a successful first round who I thought at the time gave “everyone” a ‘game plan’ on how to beat McGregor by utilizing his wrestling. After winning the interim title, just 5 months later McGregor would finally get his shot at Aldo and ‘boy’ did he take advantage of it. McGregor would KO Aldo in just 13 seconds to not only win the UFC Featherweight title outright in the fastest finish of a title fight in history, but by collecting his record setting 5th straight Performance of the Night bonus in the process.

McGregor was expected to move up in weight to 155 and face then Lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196,  in an attempt to make him the first UFC dual-weight champ in history. Dos Anjos had to pull out of the fight after breaking his foot and the fight(s) I never thought we’d be talking about followed. Two epic fights against Nate Diaz. McGregor agreed to move up to welterweight for the first fight. The first saw Diaz winning by submission in the 2nd round making this the first loss in the UFC for McGregor. Both fighters would receive “Fight of the Night” bonuses. The 2nd fight was originally scheduled for UFC 200, however McGregor was pulled from the fight by the UFC due to not fulfilling media obligations. Ultimately, the fight was rescheduled a month later at UFC 202. In the 2nd fight McGregor would get his revenge, however it looked like it may go the same way as the first, until McGregor dug deep and ultimately won the fight by a somewhat controversial majority decision. UFC 202 would break the record for pay-per-view sells set by UFC 100 with 1,650,000 buys and establishing McGregor as the top star in the sport.

In his latest fight at UFC 205, McGregor just added to his “greatness” by fighting for, and winning, the Lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez in relative ease. McGregor absolutely dominated the standup battle with Alvarez, who surprisingly tried to out-box McGregor and ended it with a 2nd round TKO. Adding another “Performance of the Night” bonus – his 6th in 8 fights in the process. But more historically, he became the first fighter in UFC history to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously.

You either love him or hate him… not many people are neutral. Between his one-liners, trash talk, predictions – that are accurate a lot of the time, and use of psychological warfare, have we ever seen a fighter like Conor McGregor? I don’t think so. I’m not sure we ever will again. He’s been absolutely incredible. He sells like nobody we’ve ever seen. He’s now been involved in the two highest grossing PPV’s. And make no mistake, he is the reason for both. He’s still a very young 28. The sky is the limit for him, in my opinion. Could we see an attempt at the 170 belt? He’s almost certainly going to abandon the 145 belt. One thing is certain… whatever Conor decides to do, we’ll be watching. Including this implied upcoming struggle with control or ownership in the UFC. McGregor says “I know my worth”. Let’s see if the UFC agrees with him…

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