The Notorious Conor McGregor has taken the MMA world by storm and has undergone a dramatic rise to fame and fortune via success in the UFC arena. We take a look at his remarkable career, his UFC record, and how he has got to where he is today.
For every sport that exists, there is normally one name that is the first to come to mind when you think of it. In basketball, you think of Michael Jordan. Baseball? Babe Ruth. Boxing? Muhammad Ali. The UFC is no different, despite being a sport that has only risen to popularity this century, and the name that has brought the sport to the world’s attention is none other than The Notorious himself, Mr. Conor McGregor.
The president of the UFC, Dana White, already had a good thing going when McGregor burst onto the scene, but he can thank the Irishman for taking the sport to a whole new level, both inside and outside the octagon. McGregor’s ability to trash talk and then back up his comments during fights is what makes the man such a popular ambassador for the sport.
He’s become an overnight hero in his home country, and his notoriety has earned him (and the sport of UFC) even more publicity in the last six months – McGregor will of course head to Las Vegas at the end of August to take on undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. This bout is set to quadruple Conor’s net worth (at the absolute minimum), further raise the profile of the UFC and will no doubt set records for the most watched and highest grossing fight of all time.
So how did a small man from the suburbs of Dublin become one of the most talked-about men on the planet? How did the great man repeatedly prove his doubters wrong and come up with big wins when there appeared to be no chance? Today we look at McGregor’s remarkable career to date and the achievements he has made over the course of his professional career.
The Notorious Early Days
McGregor grew up in Dublin, Ireland and was in the middle of an apprenticeship in plumbing when he met Tom Egan, who would turn out to be another UFC fighter.
The pair began training in mixed martial arts together before McGregor made his amateur debut in 2007 at the age of 18. His win against Kieran Campbell in the Irish Cage of Truth promotion led him to turn professional, and he began training under current coach John Kavanagh.
McGregor’s early MMA career was split between appearances in the lightweight and featherweight divisions. He won his first professional bout in March 2008 against Gary Morris, defeating him with a second-round TKO in the lightweight class, however his first foray into the featherweight division (and third fight overall) saw him lose via submission to Artemij Sitenkov.
Conor McGregor confirmed in a 2014 interview that this stage of his career would prove to be a major turning point, as he had seriously contemplated a different career path.
At the time, he had just four professional bouts under his belt and he was unsure of his future in the sport, however a conversation between his mother and coach led to him becoming re-engaged and he fortunately continued his MMA pursuits.
After another win and loss that took his overall record to 4-2, McGregor went on an eight fight win streak throughout 2011 and 2012, during which he won both the CWFC Featherweight and Lightweight championships. In doing so, Conor became the first European professional mixed martial artist to hold titles in two divisions at the same time.
The timing of his rise to prominence was perfect, and in 2013 he met with Dana White to discuss the UFC. White was in Dublin to receive a Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from Trinity College, and at the time he was inundated with requests to sign McGregor.
After their discussion, White signed McGregor to a multi-fight contract, making McGregor just the second Irish fighter to compete in the UFC following Tom Egan.
First Fights in the UFC
McGregor’s first fight in the UFC was on the preliminary card of ‘UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi’ in April 2013; he faced up against Marcus Brimagein in Stockholm, Sweden. It took him just over one minute to win the fight on TKO, and he also won his first ‘Knockout of the Night’ award in the process. This victory improved his career record to 13-2.
His next fight came in August of the same year where he faced up against Max Holloway in UFC Fight Night 26. McGregor also won this fight, this time via unanimous points decision, however an MRI scan following the bout revealed that he had torn his ACL and would require surgery. McGregor was unable to participate in any UFC fights for over ten months.
After his long injury layoff, McGregor returned to the octagon in his first UFC match as headliner and took on Diego Brandao in his hometown of Dublin in July 2014. Conor won the match just over four minutes into the first round via TKO and earned the first of three consecutive Performance of the Night awards as he went on to conquer both Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver via TKO in September 2014 and January 2015 respectively.
Interim Featherweight – Chad Mendes
The McGregor story was building, and as his career record now stood at 17-2 (and 5-0 in the UFC), Conor threw down the challenge to Jose Aldo who at the time was the UFC Featherweight Champion. After his defeat of Dennis Siver, the UFC made significant efforts to promote a match between McGregor and Aldo and in doing so spent more money than they had on any prior fight in the history of the competition.
McGregor and Aldo embarked on a twelve day world tour to promote the fight in Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland and the U.S.A. Shortly before the fight, Aldo pulled out with a rib injury and what was meant to be the Featherweight Championship bout became the fight for the ‘Interim Featherweight Championship’, with the winner to face Aldo when he returned.
This would prove to be one of McGregor’s biggest tests – he had been training in the view that he would be facing Aldo, and Mendes was a significantly different fighter. Not only was he the #1 ranked featherweight contender, he was also a notable wrestler – a style of fighter that McGregor was yet to come up against. The leading bookmakers had Mendes as the favourite at -130.
The Notorious defied the odds and won in two rounds via TKO and in doing so earned the right (again) to face up against Jose Aldo. Although this bout saw a late withdrawal from Aldo, it’s gate of $7.2 million broke the record at the time for a mixed martial arts event in the United States. Conor also earned his fourth consecutive Performance of the Night award in the process.
Featherweight Championship – Jose Aldo
By this stage, McGregor was 6-0 in the UFC and had his eye firmly on the featherweight title, something that in his mind he should have already earned had Jose Aldo turned up for the previous fight. It was well publicised that McGregor thought Aldo had ‘gone running’ and openly criticised the champion for failing to show up to a big challenger. The Notorious even encouraged other fighters to prepare for a fight as Aldo would likely withdraw again.
It was announced shortly after the Mendes fight that McGregor and Aldo would face off for the championship in December 2015. This would be the second consecutive bout that Conor would headline in Las Vegas, and was again set to break all sorts of records.
Dana White estimated at the time that gate takings would exceed $10 million, and the official figure turned out to be slightly higher than anticipated.
The fight itself lasted just thirteen seconds, the fastest finish in any UFC title bout, and McGregor’s victory cemented him as the undisputed UFC Featherweight Champion. The Notorious had well and truly landed as the biggest name in the UFC, and the win gave him a fifth consecutive Performance of the Night award and his seventh consecutive UFC victory.
Lightweight Championship – Nate Diaz
McGregor expressed his desire to become the first ever dual-weight champion, and after a UFC Lightweight Championship bout between reigning champion Rafael dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone, winner dos Anjos took a shot at McGregor in the post match press conference warning him to stay in his own division. It was later announced that McGregor and dos Anjos would compete for the championship in March 2016 at UFC 196.
Just two weeks prior to the fight, dos Anjos withdrew with a broken foot, and #10 ranked lightweight contender Nate Diaz was thrust into the spotlight to replace the champion. Bookmakers had Conor McGregor at odds as short as -400 to win the bout, however Diaz defied the odds in an intense match and won late in the second round with McGregor forced into a submission.
McGregor sought a rematch that was scheduled to be held at UFC 200, although was eventually played out at UFC 202 in August 2016. The bout was one of the most heavily anticipated in UFC history and broke the record for the highest selling pay-per-view UFC event. McGregor took revenge via majority decision as the fight went the distance.
Conor McGregor Next Fights
McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez in September 2016 to win the UFC Lightweight Championship and achieve his goal of becoming a dual-weight champion. While McGregor is now just weeks away from one of the biggest fights in history – his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather – it is difficult to imagine that he will not return to the octagon within the next twelve months.
Despite being the face of the UFC, McGregor has only contested ten official matches and holds a record of 9-1. Once the Mayweather circus rolls out of town, there is no doubt Dana White will be in his ear to remind him that he has a championship to defend.
Expect to see The Notorious back on the card either late 2017 or early 2018.