In 2013, Conor McGregor made his debut inside the octagon for the UFC. Two years later, McGregor was a regular topic during interviews for the promotion and drawing record-breaking pay-per-view numbers while doing so. McGregor submitted himself into the UFC hall of fame after defeating the UFC’s first and only featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, 13 seconds into the first round via knockout. Successfully handing the best 145-pound fighter his first loss in over 10 years. Suddenly, the entire world couldn’t help but talk about the trash talking fighter from Dublin, Ireland. So how exactly did McGregor differentiate himself from the crowd to earn a title shot and become, “The Notorious” Conor McGregor?
“Dana, 60 G’s baby!”
Those are the exact words McGregor yelled to UFC President, Dana White after his first round knockout of Marcus Brimage during UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi. It was a move no fighter before McGregor had ever dared to make. However, new to the scene and with a plethora of potential, McGregor utilized the spotlight and made himself known amongst UFC fans around the world. Coincidentally, many fighters have since taken a page from McGregor’s play book and are quick to call out White in hopes they too can generate the massive following McGregor built.
A new style of fighting & mental warfare
Karate and Taekwondo fighting styles have been popular fighting styles for years but rarely utilized in the UFC before McGregor’s entrance. When McGregor first stepped into the ring his Karate stance, Taekwondo kicks, and Capoeira movement all mixed in with his years of boxing created confusion for his opponents. McGregor, knowing his fighting style was something no one in the UFC was prepared for, quickly let his competitors and the world know. Confident in his ability to end a fight with a single punch and enjoying an eight fight knockout streak McGregor began to implement an entirely new obstacle for opponents to prepare for, his trash talk. He humiliated opponents at weigh-ins, press conferences, family dinners and any opportunity given. By aggravating opponents every second of the day and forcing them to emotionally invest in the fight, McGregor was capable of breaking down an opponent’s mental wall the week leading up to the fight.
“We are not here to take part. We’re here to take over.”
Twitter is an excellent tool for any athlete trying to build a brand. Athletes can communicate with fans, hold giveaways and build a solid following by interacting with followers and showing some attitude. McGregor, however, used social media as his way to boast about his winnings and humiliate opponents in the process. From collecting welfare checks one day to winning a $60,000 fight of the night bonus the next, McGregor was living good, and he wanted his opponents to see it. In his mind, social media was another tool to aggravate opponents before fights. He portrays a blue collar fighter putting in countless hours of training in the prime of his career. He also gloats of his recently acquired cars, private jets, designer clothing and penthouse suites, and credits it all his work ethic, powerful left hand and “bum opponents.”
“Precision beats power, and timing beats speed.”
Despite only being in the UFC for two short years, McGregor was building a following that
could not be ignored. In just his second fight for the organization, the Dublin-born fighter sent an entire TD Garden arena to its feet upon defeating another promising prospect, Max Holloway. The Irishman’s unique fighting style, brash mouth and an incredible amount of confidence were contagious. Everyone wanted to see what he would do next. Coming off a massive win against Holloway, McGregor set his sites on the UFC’s featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. Unfazed from his first two opponents McGregor risked his entire career to encourage White to make him the headliner of UFC Fight Night Dublin in his home country of Ireland. White and UFC President Lorenzo Fertitta renegotiated McGregor’s contract and agreed to place the rising star as the headliner. And in real McGregor fashion, he fed off the crowd’s energy to finish Diego Brandao via TKO with less than a minute left in the first round. Undeniably a future featherweight title contender McGregor called out the champion, Jose Aldo. Undefeated in 10 years, Aldo was the UFC’s only featherweight champion ever, making McGregor’s request a bit of a stretch but an interesting one nonetheless.
Continuing his rise in the featherweight division, McGregor defeated Dustin Poirier and
Dennis Siver in dominating fashion to earn his chance at UFC featherweight gold at UFC 189. Unfortunately, fate had other plans as Aldo pulled out of the bout against McGregor due to injury. With less than two weeks until the event, Chad Mendes stepped in as a replacement to face McGregor for the UFC interim featherweight title. Mendes, a high-level wrestler, was expected to end McGregor’s streak with his dominating ground game, but the Irishman was capable of weathering an early storm. McGregor proceeded to finish Mendes in the later parts of round two, earning the UFC’s interim featherweight title. In August of 2015, McGregor vs. Aldo finally came to fruition and when the match began, it took McGregor all of 13 seconds in the first round to finish what was the greatest featherweight in the world at that time. Finally, the undisputed UFC featherweight champion, McGregor celebrated his victory by calling out the UFC’s lightweight champion, Rafael Do Anjos. Having already defeated a UFC legend and setting his eyes on another one, McGregor had officially earned his reputation as The Notorious. No one could deny McGregor’s talent after defeating Aldo, but the real test came against Nate Diaz. Diaz, a taller, heavier, southpaw from Stockton, California had all the attributes to be considered McGregor’s ultimate test. Diaz would go on to win the first fight against McGregor via submission but looked defeated in the first round. Coming off his first UFC loss, McGregor was humble in the defeat crediting Diaz’s efficiency in the ring but made it clear he was coming for revenge. McGregor would earn his revenge in the rematch against Diaz at UFC 202. As the face of fighting and coming off a spectacular come from behind victory against Nate Diaz, McGregor was the self-proclaimed king of the UFC and like any king, he looked to continue his reign of dominance in a heavier weight class. McGregor would go on to make history after defeating the UFC lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 becoming the only fighter in UFC history to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously. It was at that moment, with a championship belt on each shoulder, when Conor McGregor indeed became Notorious.