Conor McGregor has quickly become arguably the biggest MMA fighter of all time, and for a number of different reasons. Here, we list 10 factors which – love them or hate them – have contributed to ‘The Notorious’s breakout success…
Man’s got style
Not only does McGregor fight and talk like a champion, but he also presents himself like a champion. Style is of critical importance to the Irishman, and he always comes dressed to the nines when making public appearances. Much like his fighting style, his collection of expensive suits has continued to grow and evolve along with his celebrity profile to the point where he now leads the way for the most stylish men in the UFC.
Gift of the gab
There’s no argument against Conor McGregor being the best talker in MMA right now. His trash talk transcends even the likes of silver-tongued veterans like Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping. Even against experienced verbal warrior Nate Diaz, in the run-up to this weekend’s UFC 196 main event, he has come out on top when the two have gone at it on the mic.
Conor will wage war with his words, often breaking opponents mentally before they ever enter the cage with him. When McGregor finally meets his mouthy match – if that day ever comes – we could be in for the best promotion of a fight ever seen this side of the galaxy.
Putting the moves on people
An aspect of Conor’s training which has garnered a great deal of attention over the course of his recent fights is his movement training under mentor Ido Portal. McGregor and his head coach, John Kavanagh, have long-talked about their fascination with “human movement”, and it appears Portal has taken this aspect of the Dublin-based team’s training to the next level.
McGregor’s improved movement helped him greatly when he side-stepped an attacking Jose Aldo and landed his own KO counter to win the UFC featherweight title at UFC 194, thus causing all critics of Conor’s unorthodox movement training to reconsider.
Power of a nation
The support McGregor receives from his Irish nation is beyond almost anything we’ve seen in MMA – the only thing that perhaps comes close is the Canadian adoration of former UFC welterweight champ and French-Canadian hero Georges St Pierre. The 145lb champ is solely responsible for the UFC holding their first event on Irish soil in five years with UFC Fight Night 46, and the Irish fans quickly earned a reputation as some of the most passionate fight fans on the night of that event.
His countrymen have even followed Conor in force when he has fought in the US cities of Boston and Las Vegas, drowning out all other nationalities in attendance with their cheers and songs of support.
Any time, any place, any weight
Regardless of your personal feelings towards Conor, there can be no denying his willingness to fight. Time and time again the 145lb champ has taken fights when he could’ve taken a break, or faced replacement opponents on short notice, or stepped up in weight by his own choosing. The champ fought Dennis Siver in Boston when a title shot was already more-or-less guaranteed, defeated Chad Mendes at UFC 189 after Jose Aldo pulled out two weeks before the event, then stepped up to 155lb to challenge Rafael dos Anjos before taking Diaz at 170lb on two week’s notice when RDA pulled out with injury.
As his willingness to take any fight has shown, McGregor’s ambition is on another level. Never before have we seen a fighter conquer one division and immediately call to fight the champion in the next division up, but that’s exactly what Conor McGregor did. Most are content to remain where they feel most comfortable and where they are most successful, and understandably so. But McGregor isn’t content with conquering one weight class; he wants to keep on conquering and will fight any man who gets in his way.
For all his talk, bravado and style outside the cage, it’s inside where McGregor truly makes his money. Without winning fights he would only be able to go so far and would have seen his profile peak long ago, but the Dubliner walks the walk. In the Octagon, Conor appears completely comfortable and tuned into the fight, aware of his opponent’s every move and perfectly melding his mind and body to deliver the best performance possible.
Because McGregor’s character is so polarizing, it’s been largely overlooked that he has – be it intentionally or not – been reinventing himself consistently since joining the UFC. From the persona of a lovable Irishman who’d hit the big time with his ‘Knockout of the Night’ performance in his UFC debut, to his super-stylish superstar character, to his El Chapo-like appearance at the first UFC 196 pre-fight press conference.
While other appealing MMA personalities can quickly become stale, McGregor has kept things fresh.
The Irish have a reputation for being one of the more harming nations of this world, and deservedly so. There is something about the Irish people and their culture that promotes sociability and good humor, and it’s something that McGregor has used to his utmost advantage. Be it on the mic or when meeting fans, Conor has a charisma that you cannot teach, and it’s a charisma that is uniquely Irish. Whether it appeals to you personally or not, it will grab your attention.
Much like Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather before him, Conor McGregor has cultivated a lifestyle of luxury and made it one of the key parts of his character. With his custom-made suits and heavyweight checks, the Irishman attracts attention from mainstream media who are less interested in his fighting and more interested in his million-dollar mansions and line of top-of-the-range motor vehicles.
A small portion of fans have even voiced concern over Conor’s frivolous spending, but so long as he can keep racking up wins and cash he’s only going to keep enjoying this wild ride.
Read an exclusive interview with McGregor inside the March edition of Fighters Only – in stores now!