Sunday 22 April 2018

On his 28th birthday, an evaluation of Conor McGregor's past, present and future

Conor McGregor. Photo: Getty Images
Conor McGregor. Photo: Getty Images

Tom Rooney

By any stretch of the imagination, Conor McGregor’s brief stint on this planet has been decidedly eventful so on this, his 28th birthday, what better time to reflect on days gone by and peer tentatively over the horizon.

You don’t have to particularly like or respect Conor McGregor, to concede that he’s surpassed the accepted criteria for what most consider being high achievement for those under 30.

The Crumlin lad has amassed incredible wealth, clawed his way to the zenith of mixed martial arts and, increasingly, is among the most recognisable athletes on the planet.

Granted, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, nor will he ever be, but that’s beside the point. He is, without doubt, Ireland’s most famous sporting export at present, and is likely to continue to be for the foreseeable future.

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Irish star Conor McGregor said he was ‘honoured’ to fight in UFC. AP Photo/John Locher

There have been mishaps, adversity, and questionable conduct and, quite recently, the ignominy of being submitted by Nate Diaz at UFC 196 as one of the largest pay-per-view audiences in company history looked on.

Last weekend in Las Vegas, where he has relocated to prepare for his rematch with Diaz, McGregor received an early birthday present when awarded ‘Best Fighter’ at the ESPY awards.

Here we consider the Dubliner’s past, present and future:

March 8, 2008

Aged 19, McGregor makes his professional MMA debut at Cage of Truth 2 in Dublin, and it took  him just 38 seconds to dispose of Gary Morris.

June 28, 2008

McGregor is defeated for the first time by Artemij Sitenkov via kneebar just over a minute into their bout at Cage of Truth 3.

November 27, 2010

Fighting again at lightweight, McGregor made his promotional debut at Cage Warriors 39 against Donegal’s Joseph Duffy. McGregor, temporarily disillusioned, did not compete for the entirety of 2009 and most of the following year.

Duffy forced him to tap to a rear naked choke within 39 seconds. The loss proved a watershed moment for the then 22-year-old, and it would be almost six years before he tasted defeat again.

Duffy, of course, is now also making waves in the UFC.

June 2, 2012

McGregor wins his first world title at the Helix in DCU at Cage Warriors 47. The SBG man clinched the featherweight title by submitting - the only submission win of his career-  Dave Hill with a rear naked choke in the second round.

December 31, 2012

Back at the same venue, McGregor closed the curtain on 2012 by taking the Cage Warriors lightweight crown with a stunning first round knockout of Ivan Buchinger. His next fight would be in the UFC.

April 6, 2013

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Conor McGregor punches Marcus Brimage in their featherweight fight at the Ericsson Globe Arena on April 6

The 24-year-old announced his arrival in the UFC with a devastating first round TKO of Marcus Brimage in Stockholm. In his post fight interview the immortal ‘Dana, 60gs, baby’ line was bellowed out and a star was born.

August 17, 2013

McGregor was awarded a hero's welcome in Boston for his bout with Max Holloway at the TD Garden.  McGregor prevailed again by decision but, in the process, he sustained a knee injury that would keep him side-lined for the better part of a year.

Conor McGregor

July 19, 2014

Upon his return, McGregor fulfilled a long held dream by headlining a UFC event in Dublin. A febrile audience at the then 02 witnessed all of the Irish combatants get their hands raised, before McGregor starched Diego Brandao in just under a round.

July 11, 2015

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 11: (L-R) Conor McGregor kicks Chad Mendes during the UFC 189 event inside MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 11, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Having run through Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver, the Notorious was granted a shot at Jose Aldo, the UFC’s only ever featherweight champion.

As we all know, a rib injury forced the Brazilian to withdraw from what was shaping up to being one the biggest fights ever, and Chad Mendes was drafted in on 12 days’ notice.

Conor McGregor has become a national hero.

Thousands of Irish flocked to Las Vegas for UFC 189 and McGregor, despite carrying a knee injury for months, rewarded them in full.

Mendes, fantastic wrestler, did not go quietly into the night. He bloodied McGregor from the top position and it seemed, for a moment, that the wheels would come off.

In the dying embers of the second round, McGregor got to his feet, and went to work before that unerring left hand located the American’s chin. Just days before his 27th birthday, McGregor was crowned the interim featherweight champion, becoming just the fourth European to win a UFC title.

December 12, 2015

In the end, it took him just 13 seconds to bring a concussive conclusion to a decade long winning streak. At UFC 194 at MGM Grand Garden Arena, McGregor usurped Jose Aldo and unified the 145 lbs titles.

Conor McGregor and John Kavanagh

March 5, 2016

Nate Diaz wasn’t supposed to be at the MGM on the night of UFC 196.

Rafael Dos Anjos was meant to defend his lightweight crown against McGregor, who was vying to become the first fighter in history to concurrently hold titles in two different weight classes but, once again, injury intervened.

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Conor McGregor

Cue Diaz, a makeshift welterweight bout and McGregor abandoning his regular fight week preparation in a fit of hubris. It cost him dearly.

Looking ahead

After threats of retirement, public spats with the UFC  and the cancellation of his rematch with Diaz, McGregor can rectify his sole loss with THE promotion at UFC 202 on August 20 in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.

For his own state of mind and, arguably, future relevance, McGregor needs to win.

Jose Aldo defeated Frankie Edgar for the interim featherweight title at UFC 200 last weekend, so there’s the possibility of another mouth-watering rematch, perhaps at Madison Square Garden in November.

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