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Whether you appreciate his style or consider him loud and excessive, there’s no denying this about Conor McGregor: the UFC has seen nothing like him.
In the two years since he swooped into the UFC, McGregor has become a lightning rod for controversy. But he has backed up his braggadocio with skilled MMA and an ability to draw fans – most to cheer him, some hoping to see him cut down to size.
At UFC 189 in Las Vegas, he made good on a vow to knock out Chad Mendes, capturing the interim featherweight title and setting up a showdown with Jose Aldo, the UFC’s pound-for-pound king.
McGregor’s impressive rise in the UFC took place in a little over two years. It was almost impossible not to notice him after he knocked out Diego Brandao on UFC Fight Night Dublin in July 2014, then spectacularly announced, “We’re not here to take part. We’re here to take over.”
He and his legions of fans have done that. McGregor won 13 bouts in succession from February 2011 to January 2015, culminating with a knockout of Dennis Siver. When he leaped over the Octagon fence to challenge Aldo, sitting in the front row, there was no denying him a title shot.
It looked like it might happen. The two took part in a world tour, but less than a month before their bout, Aldo was forced to withdraw because of a rib injury.
McGregor, although disappointed, didn’t miss a beat, insisting he would stop Mendes and claim the interim belt, which he insisted was the legitimate title. He struggled in the first round, landing on his back and absorbing a cut over his right eye, but he charged back. In the second round, after another takedown, he got back on his feet and finished a weary Mendes with punches.
The fight attracted a record 16,019 fans to the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a $7.2-million live gate, proving McGregor’s sizable drawing power. Some 3,000 Irish fans converged on Las Vegas and left deliriously happy.
McGregor’s 18-2 record includes a 6-0 mark in the UFC. He has 16 knockouts, one submission win and 12 first-round finishes.
As he promised, he’s definitely taking over.