On April 6, 2013 the new face of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) began to take shape, and nobody even knew it.
A highly outspoken Irishman, with quite the following behind him from his native homeland, stepped inside the UFC’s Octagon for the first time in his career with an eight-fight win streak under his belt. That brash Irishman’s name? Conor McGregor.
McGregor would light up the then three time UFC veteran Marcus Brimage, who was riding a four-fight win streak at the time, in only a minute to put his name on the map as one of the premiere prospects in the UFC’s young 145-pound division.
“We’re not just here to take part — we’re here to take over.”
6,213 miles across the world, UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo prepared to defend his title for the fifth successful consecutive time, following his five round war with former 155-pound champion Frankie Edgar, against Chan Sung Jun at UFC 163 in his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Aldo would go on to defeat Sung Jun in the fourth round of their title bout, by pummeling the South Korean with a barrage of punches after capitalizing on the fact that his arm had dislocated.
Fast forward nearly two years later and it’s a bit of a different story.
McGregor has continued his winning ways by defeating the likes of Max Holloway, Diego Brandao, and Dustin Poirier, in which he displayed his incredible striking arsenal that is graciously complimented by his freakish one-punch knockout power.
‘Notorious’ heads into his title eliminator bout with longtime UFC veteran Dennis Siver at UFC Fight Night 59 last January. It just so happened that division champion Aldo, who had defended his title two more times since his bout with Sung Jung, was also in attendance to witness firsthand the hype behind McGregor’s name.
McGregor would dismantle Siver throughout the entirety of the contest, as the German managed to survive into the first two minutes of the second round before being stopped.
Following the bout McGregor hopped the cage and thrusted himself into the crowd directly in front of the Brazilian featherweight legend, shouting chants of his native homeland as if in preparation for war.
The men would be given the date of July 9th at UFC 189 to go toe-to-toe for the 145-pound crown, and with the Irishman’s witty antics leading the charge, it would become one of the most highly marketed bouts in the promotion’s history.
A world tour would be implicated for the bout’s promotion, with press conferences between the two featherweights being held at they’re respective home countries of Brazil and Ireland.
The Irishman went out of his way to get underneath Aldo’s skin, going as far as reaching across the podium to snatch up the belt and raise it high and proud to a crowd of screaming Irish fans during a press conference.
Unfortunately Aldo was forced to pull out of the contest due to a rib injury sustained in training camp, paving the way for two-time title challenger Chad Mendes to step in on two weeks notice.
McGregor had an extremely difficult time keeping ‘Money’ from taking him down throughout the bout’s duration, however, Mendes would eventually gas out in the later part of the second round leading to a vicious knockout from the heavy handed ‘Notorious One’ in the closing seconds.
The win would secure McGregor the interim 145-pound title, setting up a unification bout with Aldo to come in the later part of the year to unify the two titles. That bout was finally made for December 12th at UFC 194 in Vegas.
Nobody was injured, all talk was thrown out, two men who held titles in the talented featherweight class stood in front of one another in the UFC’s Octagon, and would determine who the most dangerous man in the world at 145-pounds really was. And the answer came rather quickly.
After Aldo overcommitted on a left hand, McGregor threw a perfectly timed counter-left of his own that connected beautifully on the Brazilian’s chin sending him crashing down to the canvas unconscious in a staggering 13-second title win for ‘Notorious’.
While Aldo would be devastated to lose in such dramatic fashion to a man he despises in McGregor, the Irish champion would attempt to make history by attempting to challenge for the 155-pound title as well in order to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts in different weight classes simultaneously.
The unfortunate injury bug that seems to strike all of McGregor’s opponents sadly struck again, as then-champion Rafael dos Anjos suffered a broken leg during training camp forcing him to pull out of the bout.
Stockton Native Nate Diaz would step in to save the day, and would ultimately utilize his superior jiu-jitsu skills to tap out McGregor in the second round of their bout; handing him the first loss in his UFC career.
Following the loss the featherweight champion claimed he would go back down to defend his title for the first time, however, it was later announced that a rematch with Diaz would instead take place while an interim 145-pound title would be issued at UFC 200.
Just under McGregor in the featherweight rankings, sat the No. 1-ranked Aldo and the surging No. 2-ranked contender Frankie Edgar. The two men who had previously met before at UFC 156, could do it one more time three years later.
The result was no different as Aldo would take home a unanimous decision victory over Edgar and once again had a belt strapped across his waist, all while McGregor watched glaringly form cage-side.
Now the two men will meet once again, and oddly enough, it will also once again be in a unification bout. Granted, McGregor has some business to handle with Diaz in his upcoming UFC 202 clash with the Californian, however, McGregor remained adamant he would return to defend his belt.
Aldo has remained rather quiet throughout the progression of his impressive career, as he has shown respect to almost everyone he has shared the Octagon with throughout his UFC tenure. McGregor’s over the top antics, however, just seem to really bother ‘Scarface’ as he has actively taken shots at the brash Irishman on Twitter since their rivalry’s inception.
McGregor’s career in the UFC on the other hand, has been clouded by much speculation and doubt. Whenever ‘Notorious’ has accomplished something in the featherweight division a factor has always played out to his advantage.
His road to the title wasn’t against the best competition that the weight class had to offer, but the argument could be made McGregor made the perfect figure to market due to the fact that Aldo had since cleaned house in the division at the time.
The win over Mendes was also a bit controversial as he competed against a man who essentially rolled off the sofa for a five-round fight, and it doesn’t help McGregor’s case that ‘Money’ took him down almost at will throughout the bouts duration.
And then when the record breaking knockout of Aldo in December comes to mind, was it merely a fluke or a stroke of good luck for the biggest star the UFC had seen since Brock Lesnar? The Luck of the Irish perhaps?
We’ll just have to wait and see as a date is sure to be made following McGregor’s meeting with Diaz at UFC 202 next month, and we finally will get the answer to the question that has been on all of our minds since this man walked away from Las Vegas with the 145-pound title. Is this guy the real deal?