Everything You Need To Know About Conor McGregor’s Infamous Rise To Stardom
Photo: Harry How (Getty)
Even if you don’t have much of an interest in mixed martial arts, you probably have a passing familiarity with Conor McGregor, who is as close to a household name as there is in the Ultimate Fighting Championship today.
McGregor didn’t start out as a superstar. The Dublin native had to work his way up from humble beginnings, eventually becoming a two-division champion and one of the biggest draws in the history of the Las Vegas-based promotion.
Many a meteoric rise is accompanied by a precipitous fall, and these days McGregor appears to be teetering on the brink of disaster. The man with the moniker “Notorious” made headlines for all the wrong reasons prior to UFC 223, as he was arrested and charged on multiple counts after throwing a dolly at a window of a bus that was transporting fighters at the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
McGregor hasn’t competed in the UFC’s Octagon since November 2016, and for now, his future is uncertain. As McGregor awaits his fate, here are five things you might not know about the Irishman.
1. Soccer, not MMA was his first sporting interest.
While he wasn’t much for watching the world’s most popular sport, McGregor spent some time competing on the pitch as a youth. In fact, McGregor harbored soccer dreams as he competed for Yellowstone of the Leinster Senior League. By age 12, however, McGregor began to dabble in the combat arts, as he started boxing at the Crumlin Boxing Club under the guidance of trainer Phil Sutcliffe.
2. His career path could have been very different.
The Irishman walked away from a plumber’s apprenticeship because he had dreams of riches that would far exceed what he could earn in such a trade. After approximately 18 months in that field, McGregor grew tired of days that began at 5 a.m. After sparring with friend – and eventual UFC competitor Tom Egan – McGregor’s interest in MMA began to pique.
3. He was a two-division champion before coming to the UFC.
While much is made of McGregor becoming the only fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously – and rightfully so – he also captured two championship belts during his tenure in the European organization Cage Warriors Fighting Championship. Following an eight-fight winning streak on the regional scene, McGregor signed with the UFC in 2013.
4. He owns four of the top selling pay-per-view events in UFC history.
While the UFC doesn’t officially release pay-per-view figures, industry estimates indicate that McGregor has consistently been one of the biggest draws in promotion history. It started with his 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 (1.025 million buys) and continued with his rivalry against Nate Diaz in 2016 at UFC 196 (1.3 million) and UFC 202 (1.65 million). His last Octagon appearance, a lightweight title win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, drew a reported 1.3 million buys.
5. He was able to parlay UFC stardom into a crossover fight against a pound-for-pound boxing great.
MMA vs. boxing has always been a great debate in the combat sports realm, but rarely do any crossover fights come to fruition. That all changed in 2017, as a social media feud between McGregor and Floyd Mayweather translated into a lucrative boxing match at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas late that summer. McGregor, with zero professional boxing bouts to his credit, made it to the 10th round against Mayweather before losing via technical knockout. He was praised for his performance against a far more experienced foe, and more importantly, he entered a new tax bracket with a rumored payday in the neighborhood of $100 million. For the UFC, that has made negotiations with the Irishman even more tricky.