Sunday 22 April 2018

'I started the crusade to get you bums better paydays'- Conor McGregor goads fellow fighters on UFC anniversary

Conor McGregor in 2016
Conor McGregor in 2016

Tom Rooney

Even the recent chastening defeat at the hands of Nate Diaz couldn’t stifle Conor McGregor’s bravado when noting the third anniversary of his UFC debut.

Love him or loathe him, it’s difficult to deny that Conor McGregor’s rise to the zenith of combat sports has been swift and impressive in equal measure.

Three years ago yesterday the Dubliner took his place in the global MMA consciousness when knocking out Marcus Brimage with a flurry of pinpoint uppercuts at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in Stockholm, Sweden.

In his own inimitable style, the 27-year-old marked the occasion on Twitter by informing his fellow fighters of their place in his world.

 "3 years ago today, I began my crusade to take all you bums from 5 figure paydays to multi seven figure paydays. And not even a thank you," he wrote.

After felling Brimage, the Mohawk-sporting 24-year-old - who was still on the dole - endeared himself further to the masses as he petitioned UFC president Dana White for a post fight bonus; ‘Dana, 60gs, Baby!’

Indeed, he was awarded Knockout of the Night honours and was even invited to take his place on the dais for the post event press conference, which was, and still is, virtually unheard of for a debutant.

Seven bouts and six victories later, the former plumber is the featherweight champion of the world and the undisputed highest earner in mixed martial arts.

Sure, the polarising Crumlin lad has lost that initial wide-eyed vim, and could quite easily be considered the least popular fighter among his contemporaries.

However, what cannot be denied is that he has shown it is possible to be treated as a near equal by the UFC, who continue to underpay and undervalue those in their employ.

After defeating Brimage, McGregor went to a decision for the first and only time in his career when defeating Max Holloway in Boston, where he received an incredible reception.

That night he tore his ACL and was side-lined for the better part of year, which only makes his meteoric rise all the more singular, considering he was still a relative unknown at the time.

His comeback coincided with the UFC’s return to Dublin after five years as McGregor and all his compatriots were victorious on what proved a banner night for the sport on these shores.

The first round win over Diego Brandao saw him paired with top five contender Dustin Poirier at UFC 178 in September 2014. Poirier was thought to be the man that would derail the SBG man’s growing momentum.

But the American was unable to withstand McGregor’s physiological warfare and had mentally imploded long before stepping foot inside the octagon. It took the ‘Notorious’ a little under two minutes to put him away and, in turn, momentarily silence even some of his most zealous detractors. 

'McGregor carries himself like a man who considers wealth an inoculation against humility' Photo: Getty

The following January, Denis Siver was brutally undone in Boston and McGregor was granted a shot at long-standing champion Jose Aldo. An often vitriolic media tour followed, during which the Dubliner arguably broke Aldo.

Aldo, of course, pulled out of UFC 189 with a rib injury and powerful wrestler Chad Mendes was drafted in on 12 days’ notice.

On the UFC’s greatest night of 2015, McGregor weathered a ferocious early storm from Mendes before knocking the Californian out with just seconds remaining in the second stanza. Ireland could then boast an interim UFC champion.

But it was his next act that secured McGregor’s place in the pantheon of great fighters. In perhaps the greatest act of iconoclasm the sport has ever seen, he brought an end to a decade of unprecedented dominance when knocking out Aldo in just 13 seconds at UFC 194 to unify the featherweight titles.

Never one to sit on his laurels, McGregor targeted a feat that had never been done before. He would challenge lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and seek to become the first man in history to concurrently hold two UFC titles.

Once again injury intervened and on exceedingly short notice dangerous veteran Nate Diaz was brought in to replace Dos Anjos. Last month’s UFC 196 may yet prove the defining moment in McGregor’s gilded career.

In a match up that was eventually agreed to be contested at welterweight, McGregor picked apart Diaz at will for a round and a half before swiftly losing steam. He was submitted by the former lightweight title challenger in the dying embers of the second round as the world looked on incredulous.

The road to #ufc200 starts today...3yrs to the day from debut.

A photo posted by Coach Kavanagh (@coach_kavanagh) on

It was his first loss in almost six years, and just the third of his career – all three have come via submission.

At his own insistence, McGregor will face Diaz at UFC 200 to right that wrong. Furthermore, it shall once again be at welterweight. Even for a man who revels in the uncertainty of combat, it’s a bold move. July 9 in Las Vegas can’t come quick enough.

As evidenced above in coach John Kavanagh's Instagram post, preparations have already begun in earnest for the sequel.   

Elsewhere in Irish MMA, Paddy Holohan makes his first promotional appearance since losing to Louis Smolka in Dublin last January, when he takes on America’s Willie Gates at UFC Fight Night 87.

Holohan will join his fellow Dublin flyweight Neil Seery at the event in Rotherham, which is the promotion’s first show in Holland. Seery has been paired with former title challenger Kyoji Horiguchi. 

James Gallagher, Holohan’s 19-year-old SBG teammate, has signed with growing US promotion Bellator. The undefeated teenager is regarded as the most exciting prospect in Ireland.

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