Conor McGregor’s Rise Through The UFC

How A MMA Fighter Got A Boxing Fight

Every fighter that signs a contract in the UFC believes Dana White is going to be putting the belt around their waste one day.  Very few have that dream become a reality.  Conor McGregor said from his very first fight that he was the best 145 lbs fighter on the planet.  Some fighters say that early on, but there was something new about him, something special.  Fans saw it.  The media saw it.  Dana White and the UFC saw it.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

His first win in the organization was against Marcus Brimage, a TKO 1:07 into the fight. McGregor then beat Max Holloway by a unanimous decision.  The MMA fighter fought that fight with a torn ACL, making the win that much more impressive.  Holloway, hasn’t lost a fight since then and is now the featherweight champion.

The UFC had him headline his next fight against Diego Brandão.  He was headlining a fight card in just his third fight for the promotion.  Not only was he headlining, but the fight was was in his home country, Ireland.  He got another first round TKO.

McGregor’s next fight was against Dustin Poirier, a veteran in the UFC.  This was McGregor’s coming out party.  He was the third fight on a UFC pay-per-view.  The two fighters were talking a lot of smack leading up to the fight.  McGregor got a TKO 1:46 in the first round.

The UFC gave McGregor another headlining event, but this one was on Fox.  Fight fans across the nation all would know who McGregor was after that night.  He toyed with Denis Siver, getting the TKO in the second round.  He then jumped out of the octagon after the fight and started screaming in the face of then champion, Jose Aldo.  He wanted his chance at getting the belt.

McGregor was given the chance to fight Aldo at UFC 189.  The UFC did a world tour to promote the fighters.  Aldo hadn’t lost a fight in ten years and was the only featherweight champion in UFC history.  But two weeks before the fight, Aldo had to pull out of the fight due to an injury.

Chad Mendes stepped up on short notice to take the fight against McGregor.  Mendes, a wrestler, was a tough match-up for the striker, McGregor.  Mendes was able to take him down for most of the first and second round.  But McGregor was able to get to his feet towards the end of round number two. He landed some shots and TKO’d Mendes with just three seconds left in the round to become the UFC interim featherweight champion.

UFC 194 was when Aldo and McGregor finally met in the octagon.  McGregor landed a left hand in their first exchange to knock Aldo out cold just 13 seconds into the fight. He was now the featherweight champion.

With his powerful left hook, talks among fans and media started to brew about how McGregor would do in the boxing ring against Mayweather.  Both fighters were asked if they wanted the fight.  McGregor, a fighter who is down to fight anyone, anytime, of course said he would take it.  Mayweather looked at it as disrespectful because the MMA fighter does not even have a professional boxing match.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

The Irish fighter wasn’t looking in defending the featherweight belt.  He started talking about going up to lightweight, 155 lbs, to challenge Rafael dos Anjos for his belt.  He was granted the opportunity to fight him at UFC 196.  Just ten days before the fight was set to take place, dos Anjos pulled out of the fight.  It would be hard to find somebody to take the fight on short notice and be able to make the weight.

Nate Diaz said he could take the fight, but wouldn’t be able to make 155 lbs.  The fighters agreed to fight at welterweight, 170 instead.  McGregor was out-striking Diaz, who is an excellent stand-up fighter as well.  In the second round, Diaz started to land some shots. He eventually dazed McGregor, who shot in for a double leg.  Diaz has a world-class ground game and was able to roll McGregor around and lock in a rear-naked choke to get McGregor to tap in the second round.  He just suffered his first loss in the UFC.

Photo: Esther Lin/MMA Fighting

But this also proved what a big superstar McGregor was becoming. According to White, the pay-per-view did an estimated 1.5 million buys.  He said it was the biggest pay-per-view the UFC had ever done.

Many expected McGregor to go back down to featherweight to defend his belt or challenge for the belt at lightweight.  He had other plans.

He wanted to prove to everyone that he could beat Diaz, but at welterweight, just like their first fight.  They both fought at UFC 202 and McGregor won a close decision against Diaz.  McGregor avenged his only loss in the UFC.

Photo: Isaac Brekken/AP

Now was the time McGregor wanted to fight for the lightweight belt.  Dos Anjos lost his belt to Eddie Alvarez.  So Alvarez would be fighting him.  As always, McGregor was taking trash leading up to the fight.  He talked about going up welterweight to challenge for that belt after he won the lightweight belt.

McGregor looked in the best shape he had ever been in.  Lightweight was the perfect weight for him.  Featherweight he was too thin, the weight cut looked like it was taking its toll on him.  Welterweight, he wasn’t big enough.  He seemed right at home at 155 lbs.

McGregor toyed with the champion, even putting his hands behind his back daring Alvarez to swing at him, before eventually getting the TKO in the second round.  He became just the third fighter in UFC history to win two titles in two different weight classes and just the first to hold two belts simultaneously.

Photo: Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports

Now the talk of him and Mayweather fight was really building up.  Both fighters started talking smack through social media and on TV.  McGregor was clearly the biggest star in the history of the UFC.  Mayweather, clearly one of the best boxers ever, was retired.

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

But then rumors began swirling that Mayweather was training again.  He announced he was coming out of retirement to fight only the Irish fighter.  That was when it started to look like a real possibility that this fight was going to happen.  McGregor announced that he was putting his UFC career on hold to focus his training on boxing Mayweather.

Eventually the deal got done and here we are…fight day.  What McGregor was able to do, no fighter in the history of combat sports has ever done.  In four years, he ran through the UFC, won two belts, became the biggest star in the UFC and one of the biggest athletes in the world.

And tonight, he is going to fight one of the biggest stars in the history of boxing and make an estimated nine figures.  Well done Conor, well done.

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Greg LaFountain is from a small town in upstate New York called Peru. After graduating high school, Greg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving his country for four years. After the Marines, Greg went to Pensacola State College where he got his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He then moved to Tampa and enrolled at the University of South Florida where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communications. Since graduating from USF, Greg interned with Bucs Blitz, covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Greg joined Genesis in the fall of 2016, covering Florida State Football, the NFL and the UFC.