Over the last few years, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has observed a steady growth in terms of following and loyalties towards the sport. Credit for this shift goes to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which has proved to be a major game-changer.
A name synonymous to UFC is Conor McGregor. Whether you are familiar with the sport or not, such is the aura of this 30-year-old Irish that he has become a household name even at places where the sport is yet to establish its presence.
How it all began
McGregor was 12-years-old when he enrolled himself at the local boxing gym in Crumlin, Ireland. His tryst with boxing had begun. However, five years later, his family planned to move to Lucan which meant he had to leave the gym he had been training in.
He took up a plumbing apprenticeship as his father wanted him to do an honest job for a living. But the fighter in him just couldn't give up and accept his new reality. It was that determination and grit that laid the foundation of the McGregor that we know now.
He was still helter-skelter when he met MMA coach John Kavanagh and it was under his guidance that McGregor underwent a massive transformation. Not only did the athlete become obsessed with the sport but he mastered the intricacies of it as he surpassed one opponent after the other.
A champion emerges
He competed in 'Cage Warriors' and kept crushing one fighter after the other. His successive win led to a ‘Lightweight title’ fight against Slovakia’s Ivan Buchinger. On completing this objective, McGregor became the champion of two different weight divisions at the same time.
Meanwhile, President of the UFC, Dana White was often asked about McGregor’s signing. On White’s visit to Ireland what transpired, has been etched in history forever. McGregor was now a part of the UFC.
UFC domination begins
McGregor's first match was against USA’s Marcus Brimage on April 6, 2013. He completely picked Brimage apart as he knocked him out in the Featherweight division. The famous call-out by McGregor to White, “60 G's Baby”, was after this win.
“We're not here to take part, we're here to take over”
After this, it was utter carnage by McGregor, as he crushed American fighter, Max Holloway in his next fight. He got back into the Octagon and made the mockery out of Brazilian Diego Brandao, who was considered a ‘monster’ before this fight.
The statement, “We're not here to take part, we're here to take over” was made after this fight as won he the fight against all odds in his own backyard in Dublin.
'Mystic MAC' to the fore
By this stage, UFC had acquired a showman in the form of McGregor as he was not only capable to dominate the ring but was able to pull the crowds in as well.
American fighter Dustin Poirier was next on his list. He lived up to what he predicted in the run-up to the event, as he finished the fight in the first round itself.
Russian born German Dennis Siver was McGregor’s next target. After registering yet another win, he challenged Brazil’s Jose Aldo for the Featherweight division title.
By this time, McGregor had deciphered how to play mind games with his opponents. In fact, he had become so astute that his mind games and antics garnered more attention towards UFC.
Aldo was undefeated in 10 years and this lad from Ireland had no second thoughts before challenging the former’s supremacy.
He just kept going at it and Aldo was slowly losing his composure. So much so, that Aldo withdrew himself from the fight in UFC 189.
Chad Mendes replaced Aldo and McGregor knocked him out with an overhand left at the end of the second round. With this, McGregor was the interim champion and had his eyes set for Aldo's belt.
13 seconds later a new champion rose
He kept poking Aldo at press-conferences and built tremendous bad-blood prior to the fight. And when it happened, it ended with an over-aggressive Aldo walking right into a strong left from McGregor.
Within 13 seconds, it was all over. He had done it. He became the UFC Featherweight division Champion!
This was the moment marked the beginning of many such historic wins that were to follow. Things began to change for McGregor and UFC as McGregor was now a global superstar.
Nate Diaz: The Wall
The stage was set as McGregor locked horns against Nate Diaz in UFC 196. Diaz absorbed McGregor’s initial shots earlier and later slammed him in the second round, forcing him to tap-out. McGregor had been defeated. The Irish accepted his loss and promised to come back stronger.
On August 21, 2016, a rematch took place between Diaz and McGregor. In what is considered to be one of the best fights in the UFC, McGregor dominated the first two rounds.
However, things changed in the third as Diaz slammed the Irish but he wasn’t yet ready to let go. McGregor lived up to his words again as he came back stronger in the fourth to seal the deal. It was a huge win against Diaz in the Welterweight division.
The first UFC fighter to hold two titles (deja-vu)
McGregor didn’t stop after clinching the Welterweight title. His thirst intensified as he now wanted the Lightweight title as well. The only obstruction between Mcgregor and title was American fighter, Eddie Alvarez.
So what does he do? Invites Alvarez to the ring and knocks him out in the second round itself. History was made. Mystic MAC had predicted this and he delivered yet again. With this, he became the first-ever UFC fighter to hold two different division belts at a single time.
After this, McGregor was unstoppable. He was now a global megastar and had taken his brand along with UFC to every household in the world.
Enter, Floyd 'Money' Mayweather
A move any normal person would think of as insane, going against a 49-bout undefeated boxer in the form of Floyd Mayweather, but McGregor had different plans. The Irish made everyone believe that he could accomplish this impossible feat and break Mayweather’s streak.
McGregor vs Mayweather was the biggest fight the world had ever seen. It was Goliath versus Goliath as two giants of their respective sports, collided against each other.
Prior to the fight, McGregor got the better of Mayweather in the verbal banter. During the big build-up, everyone had questions as to whether can he really do it? Will he be the one who stops Mayweather’s run?
The answer to that was a no. Mayweather winded him down and picked him apart as he won the battle in the 10th round.
Despite the loss, McGregor was still standing tall. He had survived 10 rounds against the world's best boxer and that was a statement in itself. His fame and wealth sky-rocketed and with him, the UFC stomped its authority in global sport.
Believe it or not, a crazy Irishman by the name of Conor Mcgregor arrived and changed MMA forever.
(Featured Images: Twitter/ UFC, Conor Mcgregor, The Mac Life)