The Dubliner is looking to bounce back on Saturday night from his first UFC loss
It’s hard to believe that it’s just a little over three years ago since Conor McGregor emerged as a UFC featherweight prospect, and endeared himself to his nation and the MMA universe with his witty post-fight remarks.
Having just recorded a stunning first-round knockout of Marcus Brimage in Stockholm, Sweden, ‘The Notorious’ was utterly dumbfounded at the thought of receiving a $60,000 ‘Knockout of the Night’ bonus, even though he famously requested the privilege in his post-fight address.
“Just last week I was collecting the social welfare, you know what I mean?” he told the gathered media in Stockholm. “I was in there saying to them like, ‘I don’t know what going to happen. I’m signed to the UFC.’
“But now I supposed I’m gonna have to tell them to f**k off! I didn’t have money before this. I was collecting €188 a week off the social welfare and now here I am, with like 60 Gs bonus and then my own pay. I don’t know what the f**k is going on, to be honest, right?”
In what was probably one of his most underrated prophecies throughout his career, on the same night, McGregor explained what he would spend his money on.
“I’m just thinking about what I’m going to spend it on. I’ll buy myself a car anyway. A nice car, maybe some suits or something. Custom made suits, I don’t know.”
The Face of the UFC
It took just 21 months for McGregor to align himself with a featherweight title shot, despite spending 11 months on the sidelines due to an ACL injury during the same period.
His four stoppages in five tests, with only Max Holloway taking him the distance in the contest that he tore his knee in, made McGregor one of the most devastating featherweights in the history of the division. The fact that he had a mouth that could back up his spectacular performances only added to the intrigue of the masses.
Equal to the platform he was given by his doting employers, McGregor’s star shun brighter as he made his progression. His flair for flamboyance became his calling card and his ability to wow was underlined when he scaled the Octagon in Boston to get nose to nose with his future foe, the greatest featherweight to walk the earth, Jose Aldo.
At UFC 189, such was the volume of the Irish support in Sin City that Dana White claimed that they had a “200 million dollar impact” on Vegas before they even placed a bet. The smitten travelling support exploded in the MGM Grand as McGregor disposed of Aldo’s replacement, Chad Mendes, in the second round of their main event bout to claim the interim title.
Five months later, the Dubliner proved how exceptional he was with his 13-second knockout of Aldo. Fortifying his position at the top of the roster, McGregor hosted his own press conference following his unification bout and fixed his eyes on a becoming the first man to hold two UFC titles simultaneously.
Conor McGregor dejected after losing his fight to Nate Diaz. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Raymond Spencer
You can’t help but notice that McGregor’s first fall under the UFC banner came after he had accomplished everything he had set out to achieve with the promotion. He had the suits, the cars, the undisputed title, the records, the fame and the money, and it seemed quite likely that he would beat Rafael Dos Anjos to claim the lightweight title when they were matched for UFC 196.
Even when Dos Anjos pulled out of the contest 12 days before it was set to take place and McGregor fearlessly announced his intention to move up to welterweight to fight Nate Diaz, his confidence and the trail he blazed had the world convinced he would walk through the Stockton native.
The Irishman beamed widely throughout the fight week. Relaxed, without the depletion that became commonplace with his cut to featherweight, McGregor took his promotional skills to the next level as he scoffed at Diaz’s chances and his comparative wealth.
In the second round of the fight, McGregor was forced onto wobbly legs for the first time in his MMA career, and shortly after, the rangy American submitted him. Despite his nobility in defeat, McGregor’s perceived invincibility had taken a knock, and the MMA world await this Saturday night’s headline bout at the T-Mobile Arena to see how he will react to the fall from grace.
There have been countless reports of a new intensity to McGregor’s camp this time around. His specific training for Diaz by bringing in the likes of jiu-jitsu black belt Dillon Danis and amateur boxing standout Conor Wallace have shown a new focus in the Irishman.
As he explained to ESPN, securing a comprehensive preparation did not come cheap either.
“With gyms, cars, transport, flights, accommodations, I’d estimate we’re talking a $300,000 camp here,” McGregor said. “This is a big, big expense, but what I make is big. So, in the bigger picture, it’s rather small.”
We must applaud McGregor’s fearlessness in wanting to rematch Diaz immediately after his first UFC defeat. The intent says a lot about McGregor’s determination and competitiveness. However, we won’t know if the hunger to continue his reign at the top of the sport exists until he takes to the Octagon on Saturday night.