Saturday 17 August 2019

980 days - Conor McGregor timeline from UFC debut to Jose Aldo showdown

Conor McGregor facing off to his rival Jose Aldo in 2015
Conor McGregor facing off to his rival Jose Aldo in 2015

Tom Rooney

When Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo meet at UFC 194 to establish once and for all who the world’s greatest featherweight is, it will have been 980 days since the Dubliner first stepped inside the octagon.

Despite what many commentators - amateur or otherwise - have insistently crowed, McGregor has not been unprecedentedly fast-tracked to a shot at becoming one of the UFC’s 10 legitimate champions.

Yes, there are those - including the ‘Notorious’ himself - who will say that, in defeating Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight title at UFC 189, the 27-year-old should be afforded the same recognition as Aldo, but that’s simply not true.

The Brazilian may have pulled out of their bout with a rib injury deemed dubious in some quarters, but until McGregor dethrones him by way of combat, the belt he’s currently sporting should be seen for what it is; a meaningless trinket.

That’s not to say that the SBG Ireland export is not a genuine threat to the champion. In fact, there’s a very credible argument to be made that he’s the most accomplished foe Aldo has bEen pitted against, as clearly evidenced by his meteoric climb to the top of the MMA mountain.

Here we look back at McGregor’s six bouts with the UFC

April 6, 2013. UFC on Fuel TV 9. Stockholm, Sweden

Although he had won the Cage Warriors lightweight and featherweight titles, McGregor was a relative unknown heading in to his promotional debut against Marcus Brimage. That would soon change.

A series of clubbing uppercuts were enough to dispatch of Brimage in just 67 seconds. Then, of course, the elated 24-year-old bellowed out those immortal words; ‘Dana, 60gs baby!’ A star was born.

August 17, 2013. UFC Fight Night 26. Boston, Massachusetts

Still just a preliminary card fighter, McGregor was the main attraction all week in a city steeped in Irish history. The signs were all there that his persona could garner the sort of traction most of his contemporary’s couldn’t.

He defeated Max Holloway with relative ease but, for the first time, McGregor fought to a decision. It soon became apparent why; he had torn his ACL. The injury would require surgery and almost a year’s worth of rehab.

July 19, 2014. UFC Fight Night 46. Dublin, Ireland

As he predicted, tickets for McGregor’s comeback fight in his hometown sold out in record time. Initially slated to face Cole Miller, who was forced to withdraw through injury, the surgically repaired striker was instead matched in the main event with tetchy Brazilian Diego Brandao. 

458 days after he defeated Holloway, McGregor rounded off a historical night for Irish MMA by pummelling Brandao into the defeat in the final minute of the first round. 

July 27, 2014. UFC 178. Las Vegas, Nevada

Eager to harness his regained momentum, Ireland’s favourite fighting son was back in action just over a month on from dismantling Brandao.

After he signed a lucrativenew contract, it was announced McGregor would take on the top five ranked Dustin Poirier. It was the Crumlin man’s first time to be fighting in Las Vegas or on a pay-per-view event. He was cast as the consensus underdog, which proved to be a wholly misinformed assumption.

What followed was the emotional undoing of Poirier by means of McGregor’s inimitable gamesmanship. The American was so unhinged by the taunting and barbs, that the bout had been decided well before either man had pulled on a pair of gloves.

Without ever really catching Poirier with a clean shot, he managed to put him away within two minutes. Dismissing McGregor as a mouthy blowhard was becoming an increasingly futile enterprise.

January 18, 2015. UFC Fight Night 59. Boston, Massachusetts

Such had been the matchmaking in the 145lbs. division, pairing McGregor with a fighter higher up the ladder than Poirier was not possible. Instead, to a chorus of marginally justified protestation, he was given journeyman Dennis Siver.

The hisses got louder when Dana White announced that a victory for the Irishman would earn him the next crack at Aldo, who was to be sitting cage-side.

As foreseen by most, the contest unfolded as a glaring mismatch, and the ‘Notorious’ brutalised the German from the first bell right up until referee Herb Dean did the merciful thing and stopped the bout just under two minutes into the second stanza.

The sight of McGregor vaulting over the cage to confront Aldo was exquisite, and he quickly got to work telling anyone who would listen that his Brazilian nemesis was now on borrowed time.

July 19, 2015. UFC 189. Las Vegas, Nevada

Even following Aldo’s unexpected absence, UFC 189 proved to be the greatest event in MA history; the heaving atmosphere at the weigh-ins surpassed that of most title fights.

After a shaky start to the undercard, every contest proved a barnburner of sorts, most notably the co-main event welterweight title fight between Robbie Lawler and Rory McDonald, which saw the former retain his crown in a gripping bloodbath.

Conor McGregor celebrates after defeating Chad Mendes

Then, strolling out to a rapturous welcome against a backdrop of Sinead O’Connor, McGregor entered the octagon for the most important fight of his life. In Mendes, he had been belatedly paired with an elite wrestler, precisely the sort of adversary presumed to be his kryptonite.

And, for much of the bout, it looked like the Californian had McGregor’s number.In round two, following a prolonged battering with his back to the mat, the 27-year-old rolled free of Mendes as he sought to choke him.

In what felt like the blink of an eye, that unerring left hand found its target and, for the first time ever, an Irishman was wearing UFC gold.

Online Editors

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