Conor McGregor is one of the most polarizing figures in sports today. His meteoric rise from humble beginnings to becoming the biggest star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is nothing short of remarkable. However, with fame and fortune came controversy and legal issues that have tainted his legacy. This in-depth review takes a closer look at McGregor’s journey – his early days, record-breaking accomplishments, larger-than-life persona, conflicts and future outlook.
Conor Anthony McGregor is an Irish professional mixed martial artist who competes in the lightweight and welterweight divisions of the UFC. He is the former UFC Featherweight and Lightweight Champion and was the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously in two different weight classes.
McGregor also holds the distinction of being the UFC’s biggest pay-per-view (PPV) draw, headlining five out of the six highest-selling UFC pay-per-view events. His headline bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 drew 2.4 million PPV buys, the most ever for an MMA event.
But beyond his elite fighting skills and promotional prowess, McGregor is arguably more well known for his brash persona and controversial behavior both inside and outside the Octagon. His meteoric rise to fame and fortune was matched only by the dramatic lows of legal issues, lawsuits and defeats towards the later part of his career.
This in-depth review takes a closer look at McGregor’s origins, biggest fights, accomplishments and controversies. It provides a balanced perspective on one of the most polarizing figures in sports today.
Early Life and Introduction to MMA
Conor McGregor was born on July 14, 1988 in Dublin, Ireland. He grew up in the working class suburb of Crumlin and was the son of Tony and Margaret McGregor.
As a youth, McGregor played football and participated in boxing at Crumlin Boxing Club under coach Phil Sutcliffe. It was here he was first introduced to combat sports.
At age 16, McGregor left school and briefly worked as a plumber’s apprentice but soon became disillusioned with the profession. He met future UFC fighter Tom Egan at this time and began training MMA with him.
McGregor’s first official amateur MMA bout was in February 2007 at age 18 for the Irish Ring of Truth promotion in Dublin. He won via first round TKO.
Over the next few years, McGregor compiled an impressive amateur record of 8-2 before turning professional in 2008. He continued to work odd jobs as a laborer and on building sites to make ends meet early in his MMA career.
Early Professional Career and Cage Warriors Success
After going professional, McGregor put together an 8-2 record on the European regional circuits between 2008-2012. This caught the eye of Aisling Daly, fellow Irish MMA fighter, who invited McGregor to train with her at the Straight Blast Gym (SBG) in Dublin under acclaimed coach John Kavanagh.
This would mark a turning point in McGregor’s development. Under Kavanagh’s tutelage, he learned to control his aggression and strike with more precision. He also met his longtime girlfriend Dee Devlin at this time, who soon left her job to support McGregor’s career full-time.
Over the next two years, McGregor amassed an incredible winning streak, securing both the Featherweight and Lightweight Championships in Cage Warriors Fighting Championship (CWFC), the premier MMA promotion in Europe. Key wins came against Dave Hill, Ivan Buchinger and Joseph Duffy.
McGregor’s meteoric rise and promotion of himself as an Elite Level fighter caught the attention of UFC President Dana White. In early 2013, the UFC signed McGregor to make his debut on April 6, 2013 at UFC on Fuel TV 9.
Making an Impression in the UFC
McGregor’s UFC debut against Marcus Brimage in Stockholm was a dazzling one-minute knockout that earned him Knockout of the Night honors. It was a testament to his knockout power at featherweight.
His next two fights in Boston and Manchester resulted in first round TKO victories over Max Holloway and Diego Brandao, both top 10 ranked featherweights. McGregor’s brand of confident flamboyance endeared him quickly to fans who were drawn to his exciting style.
In July 2014, McGregor faced his first true test against perennial featherweight contender Cub Swanson in a bout that earned Fight of the Night honors. McGregor proved he belonged in the Octagon by outstriking Swanson and earning a hard-fought unanimous decision.
The win marked McGregor’s arrival into title contention. In his post-fight interview he famously stated, “We’re not just here to take part, we’re here to take over!” This set the stage for his meteoric rise.
Becoming a UFC Superstar
On September 27, 2014, McGregor faced Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier in a number one contender match at UFC 178. McGregor dominated the fight, knocking out Poirier in under two minutes of the opening round.
The spectacular showing earned McGregor his first Performance of the Night bonus award and cemented his position as the top contender to Jose Aldo’s Featherweight belt.
McGregor’s quick rise to the top, trash talking style and predictions that he would dethrone long-time champ Jose Aldo resonated loudly with fans. UFC President Dana White saw the rising star power and positioned McGregor as a headliner for UFC Fight Night 59 in January 2015.
The main event against Dennis Siver was McGregor’s first UFC headlining spot. He delivered by dispatching Siver via second round TKO. The victory officially set up the highly anticipated Jose Aldo-Conor McGregor title fight for UFC 189 in July.
This would be one of the biggest fights and events in UFC history. Fueled by the media frenzy surrounding McGregor, UFC 189 broke records with 1 million PPV buys. The fight generated $7.2 million in ticket sales, breaking the UFC gate record. Both men were guaranteed $500,000 each, with McGregor earning an additional $590,000 Fight of the Night bonus.
An injury to Aldo two weeks before the fight saw McGregor instead face Chad Mendes for the Interim Featherweight belt. McGregor displayed heart and grit by weathering Mendes’ wrestling to score a second round knockout. He was crowned the new Interim Champ in front of a rabid crowd of 16,019 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
This cemented McGregor’s status as the top draw in the UFC. He leveraged his newfound leverage by demanding a larger share of the revenues for UFC 194, stating “no one man should have all that power.” McGregor coined his own phrase that he was “running the fight game.”
Becoming a Dual-Division Champion
On December 12, 2015, McGregor faced Jose Aldo in the unification bout at UFC 194. He shocked the world by knocking out Aldo in 13 seconds to become the Undisputed UFC Featherweight Champion.
McGregor had predicted a first round knockout victory, but no one expected the fight to end as quickly as it did. The win cemented McGregor as the 145-pound king and one of the sport’s elite pound-for-pound fighters.
In March 2016, McGregor was slated to face Rafael dos Anjos for the UFC Lightweight Championship. However, a broken foot forced dos Anjos to withdraw weeks before the fight.
In stepped Nate Diaz, and the bout was changed to a Welterweight (170 pound) contest at UFC 196. McGregor lost by second round rear naked choke in his first UFC defeat. But he rematched Diaz at UFC 202, winning a hard-fought majority decision to avenge the loss. The rematch broke PPV records, selling over 1.6 million buys.
Undeterred by the setback, McGregor pursued history by challenging Eddie Alvarez for the Lightweight belt at UFC 205 in November 2016. He dominated Alvarez via second round TKO, becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously.
It marked the pinnacle of his career and the completion of the “Champ Champ” dream. The UFC lightweight belt seemed securely in McGregor’s grasp. But bigger paydays awaited by pursuing a new challenge.
Crossing Over Into Boxing
In 2017, McGregor shifted his focus to a lucrative boxing match against legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. It was an opportunity to make over $100 million and expand his popularity even further.
The two engaged in a four city press tour that generated enormous hype. The August 26, 2017 “Money Fight” garnered 4.4 million domestic PPV buys, making it the second biggest PPV event in history behind Mayweather-Pacquiao in 2015.
While McGregor lost by 10th round TKO, he defied expectations by lasting into the later rounds and losing honorably. Both men made tremendous sums, with Mayweather earning $275 million and McGregor $85 million.
This one boxing match earned McGregor exponentially more than his entire UFC career. But it also drew him away from MMA and allowed competitors like Khabib Nurmagomedov to rise up the lightweight ranks in his absence.
Fall From Grace
McGregor returned from his boxing diversion in October 2018 to challenge his lightweight successor Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. The bad blood between both fighters led to an ugly buildup marked by racism, insults and a dolly thrown at a bus of fighters by McGregor.
The fight ended with a dominant Nurmagomedov victory by fourth round neck crank submission. But what transpired next marred the reputation of both men.
Nurmagomedov leaped out of the cage after the win to attack McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis. This instigated a massive post-fight brawl as both sides traded blows.
Nevada Athletic Commission held back Nurmagomedov’s purse and suspended both fighters. But the damage was done to McGregor’s reputation from the chaotic and violent fallout.
This marked the beginning of numerous legal issues and misadventures that damaged the Irishman’s standing. In March 2019, McGregor was charged with strong-arm robbery and criminal mischief for stealing and smashing a fan’s phone in Miami. He agreed to community service to settle the charges.
In August 2019, McGregor plead guilty to assault for punching an older man in an Irish pub earlier that year after the man declined a shot of McGregor’s Proper No. Twelve whiskey. He was fined over $1,000 for the assault.
In September 2019, the New York Times published an investigative report accusing McGregor of sexual assault. While he denied the allegations, it was another hit to his reputation.
In late 2019, McGregor announced his long-awaited return at UFC 246 against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. But the trash talking, ruthless Conor of old was gone after the layoff and legal troubles. While McGregor won the fight by first round TKO, he was respectful and praised Cerrone extensively.
This signaled a more mature fighter, but also marked the decline of his larger-than-life persona that had catapulted him to fame.
UFC Comeback and Trilogy Fight
After another year-long absence, McGregor returned to compete against Dustin Poirier in a rematch of their first meeting in 2014. Poirier had established himself as one of the lightweight elite in McGregor’s absence.
UFC 257 in January 2021 ended disastrously for McGregor. Poirier survived early McGregor barrages to wear down and TKO the Irishman in the second round. It was only the third TKO loss of McGregor’s career.
The decisive loss crushed McGregor’s hopes of regaining the lightweight belt held then by Nurmagomedov’s successor, Charles Oliveira. But the trilogy fight with Poirier still held relevance to prove he could compete with the division’s best.
The highly anticipated rubber match took place at UFC 264 in July 2021. The trash talk increased after McGregor threatened to kill Poirier in the build up. But the fight itself ended abruptly when McGregor snapped his leg throwing a punch at the end of the first round.
The freak injury led to a doctor’s stoppage and TKO victory for Poirier. It was a heartbreaking conclusion for McGregor that necessitated extensive leg surgery and a year long layoff. The loss marked the first time McGregor suffered back-to-back defeats.
More seriously, it raised dire questions about whether McGregor still possessed the speed, power and durability needed to compete at the highest levels going forward.
Post-Poirier 3 Outlook
As of late 2022, McGregor is on the road to recovery but his fighting future remains filled with uncertainty. Rather than redemption, continued legal issues and questionable behavior have marred his recent public persona.
In late 2021, McGregor was sued civilly by a woman alleging non-consensual sexual advances by McGregor during a 2020 yacht party. The lawsuit is still ongoing.
In March 2022, McGregor was arrested for dangerous driving in Dublin after being pulled over in his Bentley Continental GT. Two months later, McGregor was arrested for assault in Dublin after punching a man in a bar altercation.
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These incidents show McGregor struggling to steer clear of legal troubles and maintain discipline away from competition. It raises real concerns on whether the 34-year old can regain focus and determination to resurrect his fighting career.
While a comeback in 2023 is planned, opponents like the Diaz brothers, Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler have called out the Irishman. But it remains whether McGregor still possesses the hunger and drive that propelled his meteoric rise years ago.
Public sentiment and MMA pundits have grown increasingly skeptical. For an aging, compromised McGregor with waning speed and power, the challenges ahead are daunting. But counting out the Notorious one completely could be a mistake given his track record of exceeding expectations.
Conor McGregor’s Legacy
Conor McGregor’s lasting legacy in MMA is multifaceted. He will always be remembered for bringing immense mainstream attention and popularity to the sport in a way no other fighter has.
His innate magnetism and promotional brilliance helped take MMA into the mainstream like never before. McGergor also deserves credit for being the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously.
Career-wise, McGregor accomplished tremendous feats in winning UFC titles in the sport’s two deepest and most competitive divisions – featherweight and lightweight.
He achieved the “champ champ” distinction and secured MMA’s first $100 million plus payday during an era of unprecedented wealth growth for fighters. McGregor was the singular icon leading this charge.
However, continual controversy, legal troubles and unsportsmanlike behavior in recent years have tainted his image. Consecutive losses to top lightweights since his return have also diminished his aura of invincibility.
Nonetheless, McGregor’s career records, popularity, and extraordinary accomplishments ensure he will be remembered as one of the most important figures in MMA history.
Whether the final chapters detail a story of redemption or continued decline will shape how McGregor is ultimately perceived. But his status as a one-of-a-kind superstar and Trailblazer is set in stone.
Conor McGregor’s Controversies and Legal Troubles
Conor McGregor is no stranger to controversy and legal issues. His incredible fame and fortune inside the Octagon have been marred by frequent misbehavior outside of competition.
Here is a summary of McGregor’s biggest controversies and legal troubles that have tarnished his reputation and standing:
- Homophobic Slurs – In 2015, McGregor repeatedly insulted then featherweight contender Cole Miller with homophobic slurs at a UFC press event. He received sensitivity training and a fine from UFC as punishment.
- Bottled Water Incident – At 2016 UFC 202 pre-fight press conference, McGregor showed up late and began tossing bottled water at opponent Nate Diaz. He also referred to Diaz’s entire team as “juiceheads.”
- Bellator Referee Incident – In 2017, McGregor jumped into the cage at a Bellator event and shoved referee Mark Goddard. He faced no official penalties.
- UFC 223 Bus Attack – In April 2018, McGregor threw a dolly at a van full of fighters after a UFC event, breaking windows and injuring fighters Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg who couldn’t compete as a result.
- Post-Fight Brawl – At UFC 229 in October 2018, McGregor’s fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov ended in an ugly post-fight brawl as both sides attacked each other. McGregor received a 6-month suspension for his role.
- Miami Phone Smashing – In March 2019, McGregor was arrested for strong-arm robbery and criminal mischief for smashing a fan’s phone outside a Miami hotel. Charges were dropped after agreeing to community service and anger management.
- Dublin Pub Punch – In August 2019, McGregor pled guilty to punching an older man in the head at an Irish pub after the man declined a whiskey shot offer. McGregor was fined over $1,000 for assault.
- Sex Assault Lawsuit – In 2021, McGregor was sued by a woman alleging forced kissing and sexual advances during a 2020 yacht party. The lawsuit is still ongoing.
- VMA Awards Incident – At the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards, McGregor threw a drink at Machine Gun Kelly on the red carpet in an unprovoked attack. He later claimed Kelly declined to take a photo with him.
- 2022 Dublin Arrests – In March and April 2022, McGregor was arrested twice in Dublin for dangerous driving and assault for incidents related to public altercations and violence.
This lengthy history of misconduct and inability to control his temper continue to undermine the Irishman’s image and reputation as an icon.