December 12, 2015 marked the day that Conor McGregor delivered on his promise to take over the UFC. After all the hype, all the build-up, it took just 13 seconds for Jose Aldo’s incredible reign to end.
The Irish featherweight had taken the 145lb division by storm in 2013, and in a little over two years had reached the summit of the division with his rivals laid to waste beneath him.
Always eyeing a larger prize, McGregor had previously insisted that his goal was to be a simultaneous two-weight champion in MMA’s top promotion and his unwavering belief in that ambition put him firmly on the radar of the top contenders of the lightweight ranks.
When he stunned Aldo and the MMA world at the MGM Grand that fateful night in 2015, it seemed that the man from Crumlin was on an undeniable path to his double-champion dreams.
For the likes of Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Eddie Alvarez and then champion Rafael dos Anjos, the defeat of Aldo confirmed the featherweight from Ireland was no upstart.
While there have been endless images and column inches dedicated to the sensational main event at UFC 194, one image has emerged that now has a very significant relevance in today’s lightweight title landscape.
Do you see him?
No, not McGregor in the octagon. Look out into the crowd, above the Irishman. There, looking sullen, unimpressed and stony-face is non-other than the undefeated grappling nightmare that is Khabib Nurmagomedov.
At the time, the lightweight title was not in the possession of McGregor but it seems his public assertion that it was on his radar had clearly rubbed ‘The Eagle’ up the wrong way.
The image is almost like looking into the future, to today, where McGregor is officially the lightweight champion and Nurmagomedov is almost inevitably set to become his biggest rival.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say.