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It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, only a segment of the hardcore MMA fanbase outside of the European scene knew of Ireland’s Conor McGregor. Today, he is one of the sport’s superstars, a world featherweight champion, and the man competing in the biggest fight of 2016 when he seeks to avenge his lone UFC loss against Nate Diaz at UFC 202 on August 20. So how did “The Notorious” one get to the top of the MMA world? Let’s find out.
Diehard fight fans knew about confident Dubliner Conor McGregor before his UFC debut in April of 2013, but few expected him to become the phenomenon he did – at least not as quickly as he took over the MMA world. But if you’re looking for the way to make a UFC debut, “The Notorious” one nailed it against Marcus Brimage, knocking the American out in the first round after Brimage took McGregor’s pre-fight trash talk as a personal attack and rushed the Irishman. 67 seconds later, a star was born.
Originally slated to face Andy Ogle in an all-Europe battle, McGregor got an even more imposing assignment in Hawaii’s Max Holloway in Boston, and disaster almost struck when the highly touted McGregor tore his ACL during the bout. Gutting it out against a dangerous foe, McGregor still found a way to win, taking a three-round unanimous decision. Unfortunately, he would be put on the shelf for nearly a year due to the knee injury.
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Some people falter under pressure, while others revel in it, and McGregor proved to be part of the latter group when matched up with Brazil’s Diego Brandao in July of 2014. Not only was McGregor returning after nearly a year away from the Octagon due to injury, but he was coming back as the headliner of the UFC’s return to his home city of Dublin. Yet despite the deluge of media descending on him and the weight of expectations dropped on his shoulders, McGregor responded with a Performance of the Night stoppage, barely getting touched by Brandao before the end came at the 4:05 mark.
Having proved able to defeat his fellow prospects, McGregor still had to show that he could hang with on the contenders of the featherweight division, and against Dustin Poirier in Las Vegas, he did more than that, stopping the talented and experienced veteran in less than two minutes. If fans thought they heard enough of McGregor’s talk, he was about to do even more. Yet what they couldn’t deny was that when he talked, he lived up to every boast. And now he had the attention of champion Jose Aldo.
Many believed that McGregor’s win over Poirier was enough to put him in a title fight with Aldo, but the UFC wanted to see him pass one more test. In his second headlining bout, this time against Germany’s Dennis Siver in Boston, McGregor cemented his place as the next in line for a crack at the crown with a dominant second round finish of Siver. But was he ready for Aldo?
After an extensive media tour to build up his UFC 189 bout against Aldo, McGregor got a shot to the chest when the champion was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury. Still wanting to stay on the card, McGregor took on a dangerous replacement foe in the form of Chad Mendes, and despite some rough early moments when he was taken down by the Team Alpha Male standout, McGregor roared back, scored a second round TKO victory and picked up the interim 145-pound title belt. Aldo would have to wait, but not for long.
December 12, 2015 – KO1 Jose Aldo (Watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
If Conor McGregor never wins another fight again, he will still be remembered forever for this one. After all the hype and anticipation for Aldo vs. McGregor, the Irishman took just 13 seconds to take Aldo’s belt and end the Brazilian’s decade-long unbeaten streak. Watching it on television just doesn’t do it justice, as saying the MGM Grand Garden Arena erupted that night is an understatement. Conor McGregor owned Las Vegas that night, and he plans on doing it again on August 20.