From the onset of his arrival onto the UFC landscape in April 2013, Conor McGregor has been nothing short of captivating. In his first ten fights with the promotion the Irishman amassed 9 victories, 7 TKO’s and 2 championship belts. It wasn’t just that McGregor was winning, it was how he was winning that caught the attention of the world. ‘Mystic Mac’ would not only predict the outcome of his bouts, he would pick the exact round in which the devastation of his opponents would occur. And speaking of opponents, McGregor never once avoided any opponent, nor did he handpick someone that all but guaranteed victory for himself. His performances have been so iconic that UFC President Dana White has even compared ‘Notorious’ to Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, going as far as stating that “Conor McGregor surpassed Muhammad Ali’s mental warfare [ability].”
What McGregor has been able to do for the sport of MMA is unequivocally unparalleled. He hit the ground running in respect to his career, fighting every four months with a willingness to fight anyone, at any weight. Earlier in his career Mcgregor became a target for fighters across three different weight classes. A claim that no other fighter has been able to make.
McGregor has become prolific, with his achievements both within and outside the octagon only comparable to the persona he has created of himself. With a confidence often mistaken for arrogance, his flamboyant and unapologetic personality (along with his quick wit) allowed him to captivate millions of fans worldwide. He became bigger than the sport, as is evident in his excursions in the alcohol industry and his exhibition boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. The ‘McGregor Walk’ and iconic “You’ll do nothing” catchphrase have become commonplace in popular culture. And who can forget the all-time classic line directed at Jeremy Stephens, “Who the fuck is that guy?” Even grandmothers who have never followed any professional sport are familiar with the McGregor surname.
Comparisons between Ali and Mcgregor are as undeniable as their respective influences on their sports. Although some purists out there will shout that Ali is incomparable, that Conor is simply too brash and arrogant, they seem to forget that Ali shared many of these same traits. He often emphasized his own greatness and relentlessly taunted and mocked his opponents, so much so that Sonny Liston once famously pulled a gun on the heavyweight champion.
Being the biggest name in a given sport requires more than just technical skill or elite calibre performances. You must be a larger than life character, innovative and controversial, unafraid of ruffling a few feathers. Being the greatest quite often means being notorious, and Mcgregor has done just that. He rewrote the UFC record book, becoming the first simultaneous two-weight champion, obtaining the fastest ever championship victory (Jose Aldo at UFC 194), and becoming the first fighter to actively fight across three weight classes.
With each fight, the future UFC Hall of Famer changes the way MMA is discerned and experienced. Since his arrival, MMA has become more lucrative, more mainstream and much more popular. What he has done for the sport can easily be compared to the influence Muhammad Ali had for boxing, and with the entire nation of Ireland behind him and an undeniable global reach, it’s safe to say that the Irishman may have surpassed his predecessor. Adding to the legend of McGregor is his well documented charitable exploits. He has donated funds from his whiskey brand to firefighters throughout the US and Ireland and most recently donated half a million dollars to the Boys And Girls Club of Acadiana, fulfilling a promise made to the world before his second bout with Dustin Poirier.
Despite anyone’s personal opinion of McGregor or Ali, fans of their respective sports and the general public cannot look away whenever either man’s name was and is still mentioned. Whether you agree or not, the fact that the two are comparable is undeniable and whether you like it or not, this current moment in sporting history will go down as the McGregor Era.