Dublin featherweight Conor McGregor‘s rapid ascent to the top of the MMA world hasn’t surprised European fight fans at all. We watched Conor tear up the opposition in Cage Warriors on his way to becoming a two-division world champion (Featherweight and Lightweight) and it was this form that made the UFC stand up and take notice.
Following a ton of media hype, McGregor made his UFC debut back in April 2013 at the UFC on Fuel event in Stockholm Sweden, and boy did he deliver. The fight only lasted a minute or so as Conor battered Marcus Brimage with a barrage of punches, earning the KO of the night bonus in the process.
The UFC clearly felt they had a potential new mega star on their roster and what better an opportunity for Dana to showcase his new toy than to have the Irishman fight on the Boston card. Boston is little Ireland after all. It was that night back in August 2013 that Conor became the first non-headline fighter to get the lights ‘black out’ treatment for his entrance into the arena. Remember, this was only Conor’s second UFC fight. Despite blowing his ACL in the second round, Conor dominated and took home another impressive ‘W.’
There is no doubt Conor is a hugely exciting prospect inside the cage, but I feel his antics outside the cage are even more engaging. Here we have a guy, two fights into his UFC career making more headlines than some of the seasoned pros. His patter is immense; and in my opinion the only guy able to compete with Mr Chael P Sonnen in that respect. In fact, Ariel Helwani suggested after Conor’s first appearance on the MMA Hour that he was the best interviewee the show had ever broadcast. That’s a hell of an endorsement.
Unfortunately the ACL injury has put the brakes on any Octagon action for Conor until later in 2014, but it certainly hasn’t stopped the PR machine that he is fast becoming. In fact, the injury may well be a blessing in disguise as it has afforded Conor the time to self promote himself into the MMA stratosphere. Never have I seen a fighter so early in their UFC career cause such a stir. He is charismatic, there is no doubt about that, and with a very much love him or hate him personality, he has become a must interview for any MMA journalist worth his salt.
Conor McGregor does not seem to care who he upsets in his division and has had a pop at pretty much all of them. Fighters are queuing up to get a shot at him and at the moment, Diego Sanchez is right at the front. There has been many a dig between the two on Twitter and in interviews; Diego has said Conor is nothing more than a big mouth with Conor suggesting he will leave Diego feeding through a tube for the rest of his life.
More recently Conor unleashed a verbal onslaught at Luke ‘Bigslow’ Barnatt on the MMA Hour in retaliation to some comments Luke had made. All great stuff and exactly what we as fight fans should want to hear. I encourage fighters to trash talk, it’s great fun to listen to. I don’t want to hear any of that “he’s a really great guy” crap. Trash talk adds to the occasion, sells PPV’s, and motivates fighters. It’s probably the best marketing tool any fight promoter could wish for.
I often wonder how Conor’s personality is felt amongst fight fans out there. Do they appreciate that arrogant, but somewhat tongue in cheek persona that he is conveying? Do they find the loud mouth, bad language, tailored suits with bow ties infuriating? Or do they see this for what it is: a young man that’s invented a character to separate himself from his peers and be a must watch fighter? I for one love the guy and can’t get enough of his antics. McGregor calls himself The Notorious, a description that couldn’t be more fitting, because notorious is exactly what he has become.
Let me know your thoughts on my twitter handle! @heffiejr