Ahead of his ninth UFC bout at UFC 202 this weekend, we take a look at Conor McGregor’s previous eight Octagon fights in order of greatness.
8) Dennis Siver – UFC Fight Night: Boston (January 2015)
While the fight itself was merely a procession, it nonetheless represented a must-win challenge in order for Conor McGregor to receive a featherweight title shot. In his way was Dennis Siver; a teak-tough veteran of eleven years who many felt was handpicked to ensure that Conor would progress to title challenge status.
McGregor dominated the seven minute bout, on a night which was more famous for his direct call-out of Jose Aldo – scaling the cage after putting the hapless German to the sword.
7) Marcus Brimage – UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi (April 2013)
April 2013 heralded the ‘McGregor Era’, with the Dubliner making his Octagon debut in Stockholm, Sweden against ‘The Ultimate Fighter 14’ alum Marcus Brimage.
The 5′ 4″ American was no match for the ‘Notorious’ one, who required just 22 strikes and 70 seconds to dispatch his foe. Again, it’s perhaps more memorable an event for what happened afterwards.
$60,000 is a mere drop in the ocean for Conor nowadays, but at a time when he was just weeks removed from claiming social welfare, it was everything.
6) Diego Brandão – UFC Fight Night: Dublin (July 2014)
To this day, UFC Fight Night: Dublin remains the most raucous event in the promotion’s history. An eleven month lay-off for their hero saw the Irish crowd packed into The O2, Dublin leave UFC president Dana White in shock, such was their vociferous support for the Irish contingent on the card.
As for the fight itself, McGregor dispatched of dangerous BJJ black belt Diego Brandao in just over four minutes.
5) Dustin Poirier – UFC 178 (September 2014)
McGregor’s most heated rivalry yet saw him face hot-headed contender Dustin Poirier in what represented a notable step-up in competition. The class of his opponent didn’t perturb Conor, who upped the mind games to the extent that Poirier claimed that he ‘never hated an opponent so much’ as he did the Irishman.
The tactic appeared to work a treat – a fired-up Poirier went headhunting, and an evasive McGregor took full advantage.
‘The Diamond’ actually outstruck the Irishman by a narrow margin of 10-9, but McGregor prevailed yet again in under two minutes, with an equilibrium-disrupting blow to the side of the head.
To illustrate Poirier’s credentials, the 27-year-old has since gone on a tear in the lightweight division with four straight wins, one of which came against one Joseph Duffy this past January.
4) Max Holloway – UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen (August 2013)
Perhaps McGregor’s most complete performance to date, particularly given the circumstances that played out during the bout.
Originally set to face Andy Ogle, Conor would have to instead face a taller prospect in Hawaiian prodigy Max Holloway.
The Irishman swept the first stanza, but suffered an ACL tear in the second round (which would then keep him out of action for almost a year).
McGregor went the distance for the first and only time in his career to-date. Despite the distinct possibility of panic being induced by such a serious injury, he dominated the Hawaiian for 15 minutes, utilising an impressive and sparsely seen ground game. Conor absorbed just nine strikes in the injury-stricken final two rounds, showcasing the mantra that he proudly proclaimed in the post-fight interview – “Adapt and overcome”.
3) Jose Aldo – UFC 194 (December 2015)
Eleven months of tense build-up gave rise to one of the most memorable nights in the sport’s fledgling history. McGregor was to finally be matched with a dominant world champion who could command the title of the world’s pound-for-pound best fighter.
Many seasoned observers, along with fellow peers and fighters, expected featherweight champion Jose Aldo to humble the loud, brash SBG Ireland product.
After a six month delay in proceedings following Aldo’s withdrawal from UFC 189 in July of that year, the two finally clashed, but the confrontation itself lasted just 13 seconds.
Having turned the entire sport on its head in one fell swoop, Conor McGregor was in contention to reach deity status once a lightweight title bout with Rafael Dos Anjos was announced for UFC 196 the following March.
2) Nate Diaz – UFC 196 (March 2016)
What followed was an immediate fight of the year candidate, but Dos Anjos was nowhere to be seen.
Yet another late injury withdrawal saw Nate Diaz step into the breach for an impromptu welterweight clash. McGregor jumped 15lbs. in weight to fight Diaz on ten days notice.
Conor won the first round at a canter, but those of us used to seeing him kick on and finish his unfortunate foes were aghast at what happened next. Diaz started to find his timing, McGregor became over-reliant on his bombshell left hand and subsequently gassed – a convergence of trouble that the Irishman couldn’t recover from.
Diaz choked out the featherweight champion towards the end of the second round – the nadir of McGregor’s UFC career to date.
You can view the full fight below via BT Sport.
1) Chad Mendes – UFC 189 (July 2015)
The zenith of McGregor’s tenure came eight months earlier at UFC 189.
Jose Aldo’s rib injury just ten days out from the event saw Conor McGregor matched up with Chad Mendes for the interim belt. As a powerful, accomplished wrestler, Mendes was seen as the antidote to the grappling-shy, trigger-happy ‘Notorious’.
Indeed, Mendes saw success in the first round, taking Conor down three times in the process. McGregor was grounded by the American again in the second, but an ill-fated guillotine attempt saw Conor rise to his feet and proceed to finish Chad with three seconds left in the round.
The sight of a tearful McGregor who battled with injury, prolonged media and the pressure he had placed upon himself, endeared him to a worldwide audience in the aftermath of his greatest win yet.
The epic contest headlined UFC 189 – dubbed the “best UFC ever” by company president Dana White.
The fight itself can be viewed below via UFC – Ultimate Fighting Championship on YouTube.