The instant Conor McGrgeor graced the Ultimate Fighting Championship with his presence it became clear he was a different kind of animal. His performances since have only served to drive home the point.
McGregor has compiled a 9-1 record under the UFC flag, captured championships in two weight classes and emerged as the company’s brightest star and biggest box-office draw. The 28-year-old former two-division Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder has gone the distance just twice in 10 appearances inside the Octagon, all while posting victories over Marcus Brimage, Diego Brandao, Dustin Poirier, Dennis Siver and others. As he sits on the UFC lightweight throne, McGregor has cast his eyes toward greener pastures and a potential $100 million payday against boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. While the two men continue to tease audiences with the thought of a landmark super fight between boxing and MMA superstars, McGregor can rest easy knowing he has already cemented his place as a historical figure in mixed martial arts.
In a transcendent career bursting at the seams with defining moments, here are five that stand out:
1. Mad Max
Clean, accurate punches paired with a dazzling array of kicks and a series of takedowns spurred McGregor to a three-round unanimous decision over Max Holloway in a UFC Fight Night “Shogun vs. Sonnen” undercard tilt on Aug. 17, 2013 at the TD Garden in Boston. All three judges sided with McGregor: 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. Holloway seemed mesmerized throughout the first round, as the Irishman blasted him with high-velocity strikes to the head and body, showing no regard for the return fire. Over the final 10 minutes, McGregor, citing a knee injury, turned to takedowns. He was successful there, too, as he grounded Holloway repeatedly and mounted him midway through the third round. It was later revealed that McGregor had suffered an ACL tear during the bout, making the victory all the more impressive. He underwent reconstructive knee surgery and did not compete again for nearly a year.
2. Alpha Male
McGregor sent a message to his doubters with a straight left hand. The Irishman stopped Chad Mendes with second-round punches to capture the interim Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight crown in the UFC 189 headliner on July 11, 2015 before a raucous pro-Irish crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mendes, who accepted the bout as a short-notice replacement for the injured Jose Aldo, wilted 4:57 into Round 2. McGregor dealt with the first significant adversity since arriving in the UFC. Mendes secured four takedowns, opened a cut near his right eye with a slashing elbow and piled on the punishment with ground-and-pound from inside guard. McGregor bided his time, and Mendes made a tactical error late in the second round, as he surrendered top position while fishing for a guillotine choke. McGregor escaped to his feet, uncorked a series of accurate punches, dropped the fatigued Team Alpha Male standout with a straight left and polished off what was then his 14th consecutive victory with unanswered rights to a turtled Mendes.
3. Wake Up, Jose
The hype behind the man was exceeded only by his performance. McGregor with one swing of his left hand quieted his detractors and set the MMA world on fire, as he unified the Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight title with a stunning 13-second knockout of the great Jose Aldo in the UFC 194 main event on Dec. 12, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It was the fastest finish in a championship fight in UFC history. Aldo stepped into the pocket with a straight right-left hook combination, only to be met with a counter left hook from the Irishman. That was that. The Nova Uniao cornerstone crashed to the canvas in a defenseless state and absorbed two subsequent hammerfists to the face before referee John McCarthy could rescue him. The defeat was Aldo’s first since being submitted by Luciano Azevedo 10 years and 16 days prior.
4. Audacious Ambition
Even McGregor has a limit to how much he can chew. Nate Diaz submitted the then-Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight titleholder with a second-round rear-naked choke in the UFC 196 main event on March 5, 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. McGregor tapped 4:12 into Round 2, his 15-fight winning streak halted in decisive and dramatic fashion. The non-title bout was contested at 170 pounds. A replacement for injured UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, Diaz absorbed a copious amount of punishment from the Irishman. He was on the receiving end of probing left hands and jarring uppercuts but never checked out. The Stockton, California, native entered the second round battered and bleeding from a cut near his right eye but still very much in the fight. Diaz stunned McGregor with a straight left and kept throwing punches until the SBG Ireland rep shot for a desperate and ill-conceived takedown. After bailing on a guillotine, Diaz climbed to full mount and forced McGregor to surrender his back. The choke was in place soon after and the tapout was close behind.
5. A Class by Himself
McGregor accomplished a feat for the ages in the shadows of Lady Liberty. The Irishman became the first competitor in Ultimate Fighting Championship history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously, as he stopped Eddie Alvarez on second-round punches to capture the lightweight crown in the UFC 205 headliner on Nov. 12, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Alvarez succumbed to blows 3:04 into Round 2, giving McGregor possession of championship gold at 145 and 155 pounds. Once he was forced to stand with the SBG Ireland superstar, Alvarez was doomed. McGregor kept the Philadelphia native on the end of his punches, floored him twice inside the first five minutes and established his superiority with breathtaking ease. A little more than midway through the second round, he cut loose with a blistering four-punch combination that sent Alvarez crashing to the canvas and prompted McCarthy to intervene on his behalf. McGregor outpaced Alvarez in the significant strikes landed department by a 32-9 margin, according to FightMetric figures.