Friday 23 June 2017

What did Conor McGregor do to get his kicks before UFC super-stardom?

McGregor in action in his days with Leinster Senior League team Yellowstone United
McGregor in action in his days with Leinster Senior League team Yellowstone United
Conor McGregor for Yellowstone
Conor McGregor UFC featherweight champion

Kirsty Blake Knox and Ryan Nugent

Before The Notorious, there was The Goal Machine.

Now the millionaire poster boy of the UFC, Conor McGregor was once star striker for Leinster Senior League team Yellowstone.

Growing up in Crumlin, McGregor (27) has said that you needed to be "good at football or you had to know how to fight".

Luckily, both came naturally to the Dublin native but to this day he maintains "football was my first dream".

McGregor played for Yellowstone, now known as Stanaway Celtic, in 2010 and 2011.

According to former manager of Yellowstone, David Glennon, the team's weekly matches lacked the UFC fanfare to which McGregor is now accustomed.

"Most weeks we'd have had about five people, a dog and a man with an umbrella at our matches," Glennon said.

The former manager added that the team's clubhouse in Brickfield Park, Drimnagh, was "a bit different" from McGregor's new battleground in the City of Sin, Las Vegas.

Predictably, as McGregor's commitment to MMA intensified, his time with Yellowstone began to fall off.

"The first year he was generally down with us all year," Glennon said.

"But in the second, you'd be lucky to get him in once a week, because he got more into the MMA and got more committed."

Glennon added he would welcome McGregor back to the squad if he ever leaves the world of mixed martial arts.

McGregor's rise from plumber to UFC champion has been meteoric. Having left school at the age of 17, McGregor spent 18 months working as an apprentice plumber in Kilternan.

But after too many 5am starts, he felt it was time to go in a different direction.

"It was a rough time," he said. "I did not like the life and plumbing did not interest me so one day I said 'f*** it' and I quit."

His parents were initially wary of his decision, but McGregor was confident he would become a self-made millionaire by the time he was 25.

"It took me until I was 26," he recently remarked. "But now, I love to say it, I told you so."

A skilled boxer, McGregor's interest in MMA was ignited in 2006 when he began sparring with friend Tom Egan.

"I met Tom who was just grappling at the time," he said.

"Around the same time we discovered MMA, so I'd head up to his gym in Kildare and we'd teach each other what we knew, then scrap at the end of it."

McGregor made his MMA debut in 2008 when he went head-to-head with Gary Morris.

In 2009, McGregor spent a year perfecting his technique and skillset under the guidance of John Kavanagh of Straight Blast Gym.

The 5ft 9in fighter returned to the sport in 2010 fighting Connor Dillon in the Chaos Fighting Championships.

Despite steadily building up a profile in the world of mixed martial arts, McGregor's success went under the radar in Ireland for many years. He became a household name, however, in 2014 when he returned to his homeland to fight Diego Brandao.

McGregor knocked the Brazilian out in the first round and told the rapturous crowd; "We're not here to take part, we're here to take over."

Since then, everyone's interest in 'The Notorious' and the world of MMA fighting has sky-rocketed.

The featherweight superstar has become the UFC's golden goose, and has massively boosted the popularity and interest in the sport.

McGregor is a dream spokesperson for any sport; he delivers his trademark trash talk in perfectly succinct soundbites and garners huge media attention around the world.

Like him or loathe him, the interim world champion is clearly reaping the financial rewards of being the brash and bombastic face of UFC.

"I was collecting €188 a week off the social welfare," he said.

"And now here I am, with 60Gs bonus and then my own pay. I don't know what the f***'s going on to be honest."

Everything about McGregor is flash and ostentatious.

His Louis Vuitton python skin loafers have their own passport, he treated his long-term girlfriend Dee Devlin to a €30,000 Cartier watch, and he proudly straddles mountains of cash in his social media avatars.

He believes both his bravado and his success in the octagon is partially due to his nationality.

"We come bulletproof in Ireland," he said.

"We're reared tough and we fight.

"We've been fighting all our lives, and we are not shy about speaking our minds, so it couldn't be more perfect."

After his victory against Jose Aldo, he has proved he can live up to the hype.

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport