UFC icon Conor McGregor will take centre stage once again this weekend when he looks to write another chapter in his remarkable career.
McGregor headlines UFC 257 on Saturday night against Dustin Poirier on Fight Island.
Getty Images – Getty From very humble beginnings, McGregor has become one of the most marketable athletes in the world[/caption]
Will it be another quick knockout or will he have more of a workout?
Last time he fought Poirier, he wound him up so much he had him beaten before they entered the octagon and it was over in the first round.
He used to enjoy doing that to opponents before a fight, but Poirier, Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov, among others, will be secretly glad he walked into Crumlin Boxing Club all those years ago.
This cocky Dubliner single-handedly changed the size of their pay packets.
The plumber’s apprentice, who collected a welfare cheque of €188 before his UFC debut in 2013, has come a long way.
“People want to not give Conor credit for it, but if a guy made a million dollars back in the day it was massive,” former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said.
“Conor McGregor blew the roof off in terms of what MMA fighters could make.”
His star power has opened the door for many in his sport to earn more money and was the first mixed martial artist to make it onto Forbes’ 100 highest paid athletes in the worldGetty Images – Getty
Some of the things he has done outside of the sport have been indefensible – and he has been punished accordingly – but like him or loathe him, in a few short years McGregor has become the face of mixed martial arts.
Like Mike Tyson did for heavyweight boxing in the 1980s and 90s, he has brought so many more eyes to his sport.
UFC president Dana White immediately recognised he had found someone who could reach markets they never managed before – a first global superstar.
He first came to his attention in 2013 when White was in Dublin receiving an award from Trinity College.
“I tell everyone to meet me at the pub, I’ll pay the bill for everyone there and we’ll have a blast.
“And [at the pub] everyone is talking about Conor McGregor, so I fly the kid [to Las Vegas] and we got to dinner. From the second I meet this kid – personality is off the charts.
“When I drop him off I rang [co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta] and said ‘I don’t know if this kid can fight, but if he can even throw a punch, he’s going to be a huge superstar.’”
And he didn’t disappoint on his debut in 2013 where he wasted no time beating Marcus Brimage and earning a $60,000 bonus – the first deposit into his now sizeable bank account.
When he beat Donald Cerrone last January – which he claims earned him around $80m – on his return to the octagon after 18 months out, Chuck Liddell showed how far McGregor had come.
The biggest star of the noughties re-posted a picture of him and an excited young McGregor in 2008 and one in 2020 – where Liddell was among thousands gathered to watch his weigh-in ahead of his headline act.
“Your work inside the UFC’s famed Octagon inspired me to chase my own fighting dreams, and for that I am forever grateful to you,” McGregor told Liddell.
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A post shared by Chuck Liddell (@chuckliddell)
McGregor showed people what it was to dream big and achieve. He said he would be a UFC champion. He did it. He said he’d be a millionaire by the time he was 25. He did – okay, he was 26.
He even had the balls to ask Dana White for shares in the promotion.
“Conor is also the rare personality who has become bigger than his sport,” Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote in Time Magazine when McGregor was named one of their most influential people in the world in 2017.
“From the first time I met Conor, I knew he wasn’t the type of star you could box into one category.
Getty Images – Getty Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger called McGregor’s personality ‘contagious’ and believes he is bigger than mixed martial arts[/caption]
“His energy is absolutely contagious, to the point where you almost start shouting in an Irish accent after 30 seconds of hearing that world-famous mouth.”
From the NFL, NBA and Premier League, the most well known athletes have been spotted practising the ‘billionaire strut’.
McGregor was five when the UFC held its first event in 1993 and while Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie and Liddell laid the groundwork, McGregor built the house.
People couldn’t get enough of Muhammad Ali’s quick wit and just like ‘The Greatest’, McGregor knows how to sell a fight.
Often imitated. Never duplicated. Nobody does the Billionaire Strut quite like @TheNotoriousMMA #UFC246 pic.twitter.com/Aws8IdPnVd
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 16, 2020
Nick Peet, of Fight Disciples, has been covering McGregor since the fighter’s Cage Warrior days in 2008.
“He understands fight sports better than anyone I’ve covered and I include Tyson and Prince Naseem in that. He gets his worth, knows how to sell a fight and how press conferences work,” he told talkSPORT.
“He’s probably the biggest star in fight sports, rivalling Canelo for pay-per-views and to see his rise has been both remarkable and surprising when I think back to where he’s come from. But his journey has also been the most enjoyable,” Peet added.
McGregor made history at MSG in 2016 when he beat Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter to hold two UFC world titles simultaneously, having already won the featherweight belt in devastating fashion against Jose Aldo
“Technically, he’s probably fringe top 10 of the best mixed martial artists I’ve covered, however, he is leaps and bounds the biggest star the sport has ever seen and for that reason he has to be considered one of the greatest of all time.”
When McGregor fights, something happens. Is there anyone else in the sport who can bring city traffic to a standstill? Is there anyone who has the sort of committed fans he has?
McGregor returned to the octagon in 2020 at UFC 246 after 18 months away and beat Donald Cerrone in just 40 secondsGetty Images
He may not have pioneered MMA in the way those in the Hall of Fame did, but he has consistently pioneered the art of self promotion and has continued to push monetary boundaries.
And the bloke can fight, that’s for sure.
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