Conor McGregor will take on Nate Diaz next month in their long awaited rematch at UFC 202, following ‘retirements’ and scheduling issues.
Following the Irishman’s defeat to Diaz at UFC 196 in March, his first UFC defeat, the MMA world has been waiting for the rematch between the mismatched opponents.
Diaz is at best a lightweight, though he is far more comfortable at welterweight. McGregor is a lightweight but you might argue he is in reality closer to a lightweight when not cutting for a fight.
Redemption or disaster awaits the UFC lightweight champion on August 20th and while the man himself, his coach, John Kavanagh, and a global fan base believe he can avenge his first UFC defeat against the Stockton fighter, the fight itself, win or lose, will be yet another defining moment in the career of the world’s most recognisable MMA fighter.
As we wait for UFC 202 to roll around, let’s look back at five of the most important and memorable moments of the Dublin fighter’s career to date.
1. Becoming a two-weight world champion at Cage Warriors 51
Already world featherweight champion in the Cage Warriors franchise, McGregor took on Ivan Buchinger for the lightweight title, and in the second round crumbles his opponent with a viscous left hook.
A week later, Dana White, while in Ireland, signed the explosive Irishman to the UFC. Here’s what finally caught White’s attention.
Video Credit: Training Base
2. McGregor’s first win in the UFC
Signed to the UFC by White back in February 2013 to a multi-fight deal, McGregor’s first trip to the octagon came in April with a bout against the dangerous Marcus Brimage.
It was the fight that announced him to the world and set him on his way. A devastating first round knockout of Brimage confirmed what White had seen in the Dubliner: a superstar in the making.
Video credit: Greatest Knockouts
3. Chad Mendes: McGregor’s first true test
Following his decimation of the featherweight division and his insistence on a title shot, the UFC gave McGregor his chance at UFC 189 against Jose Aldo. A late withdrawal by the Brazilian saw fellow title contender Chad Mendes step in and the two headlined the event for the interim featherweight title.
In what was the Notorious’ first real test against a world-class wrestler, McGregor showed his mettle and despite taking some heavy hits on the canvas, overcame Mendes in round two to claim the interim strap and set up a massive fight with Aldo.
Video Credit: mylifeufc
4. Jose Aldo: No more running
At UFC 194 in December 2015, McGregor finally got his shot at the long reigning champion. Unbeaten in a decade, Aldo is one of the sport’s greatest ever champions and was to be McGregor’s toughest test yet.
As it turned out, the Notorious didn’t get that memo and promptly ended the Brazilian’s reign 13 seconds into the first round with a clinical strike with his favoured left hand. McGregor was crowned king, as he had predicted when he first arrived in the UFC.
Video Credit: The Kings Of Aiming TKOA
5. Nate Diaz: Gracious in defeat
UFC 196 saw McGregor take on Nate Diaz, a late replacement for the injured Rafael dos Anjos. The fight was set at welterweight, two weights above McGregor’s previous fight, in order to allow Diaz make the weight.
The world knows what came next. The difference in size was simply too much for McGregor and he ultimately succumbed via submission in round two.
It was not the defeat that makes it a defining moment in his career but rather how he accepted his first UFC loss. The ever brash and outspoken Irishman was both humble and gracious in his defeat, saying:
“I took the chance going at 170. I felt I took him the first round but I was inefficient with my energy.
“But I’m humble in victory or defeat and I respect Nate. He came in and took the fight at short notice and done the job. He was efficient – I wasn’t – that was it.
“I feel I hit too much arms but these things happen. I’ll learn, I’ll grow. I took a chance going up weight and it didn’t work out.
“It is what it is. I’ll face it like a man, like a champion, and come back.”
Video credit: UFC – Ultimate Fighting Championship
McGregor’s is a career that is punctuated by highlight reel knockouts, memorable one-liners and uncompromising honesty and respect.
These defining moments captured above are mere markers on a journey that is not yet complete. Next stop is a rematch with Diaz on August 20th at UFC 202.
Win or lose it will be another seismic event within the UFC and will determine the road McGregor takes next. Either way, the man from Dublin is done yet defining himself and redefining the UFC.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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