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A two-division champion in UFC, McGregor was for a time considered the king of combat sports, living a lavish life and earning a nine-figure payday with the help of a dubious boxing match against Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
But while McGregor took naturally to the superstar life, it wasn’t something into which he was born. Coming from a working-class family from the suburbs of Dublin, McGregor journeyed his way through childhood gyms, a stint as a plumber’s apprentice, and eventual worldwide fame as the most “Notorious” fighter on the planet, and the biggest name in the UFC.
Below we take a look a McGregor’s rise to the top of the world.
Conor McGregor was born on July 14, 1988, to parents Tony and Mags. They claim he was born with clenched fists.
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Source: Bleacher Report
McGregor would spend his youth in Crumlin, a suburb of Dublin. Once his interest in Manchester United gave way to an interest in fighting, he would train in at the Crumlin Boxing Club.
In Dublin, McGregor would meet his now longtime coach, John Kavanagh. After going into one of Kavanagh’s gyms, McGregor beat up two of the best fighters there in a sparring session that he took a bit too seriously. Kavanagh responded by “pinning him and throwing heavy blows until Conor promised he was there for training and not for a street brawl.”
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Uninterested in school, McGregor took to plumbing as a trade and did what he could to make it a living for some time. There were times when he would work 12-hour days before heading to the gym to train as a fighter. It was around this time that he started dating his longtime girlfriend, Dee Devlin.
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Source: Bleacher Report
When McGregor gave up plumbing to train full time, his parents disapproved of the decision, so much so he and his father came to blows. “You’ll be sorry when I’m a millionaire,” he told his father. “I remember saying, at 25 years of age I will be a self-made millionaire.”
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Source: Bleacher Report
That said, he hasn’t forgotten those roots. Just before McGregor left Ireland to train for his fight against Mayweather in Las Vegas, craftsman Trevor Sweeney drove over to his house and dropped off a project he had been working on for six months: a chess set made from plumber’s materials, emblazoned with McGregor’s logo.
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“When you look at that board,” Sweeney said of the piece, “it represents your journey from an apprentice plumber to a king.” That journey began when Conor committed to fighting professionally.
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McGregor took part in his first MMA fight on March 8, 2008, for the London-based promotion Cage Warriors, defeating Gary Morris by TKO in the second round. He would go 4-2 through his first six fights before starting the winning streak that would take him to international fame.
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Source: Bleacher Report
During that run of early fights, McGregor attended his first-ever UFC event, and caught Chuck Liddell’s attention long enough to snag a selfie. It’s the type of encounter McGregor would soon find himself on the other side of often.
Tweet Embed:https://twitter.com/mims/statuses/46476518505686220916 years old at my very 1st @UFC event!! I dived on @ChuckLiddell, he didnt know what was happening haha!! #Legend pic.twitter.com/bAGPjiyYDS
After his 4-2 start, Conor would win his next eight fights, all within the first two rounds, and become a two-division champion of Cage Warriors. Buzz continued to grow and he was eventually booked for his first fight with UFC.
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On April 6, 2013, McGregor made his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage, winning by knockout in the first round. The win was not only his UFC debut, but later led to the first post to his now (in)famous Instagram account.
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Just a week before that fight he had picked up a welfare check for 188 euros to help him get by, but McGregor took home the prize for Knockout of the Night that night and the $60,000 bonus that came with it. Later in life, he would name his boat “The 188” in memory of those checks.
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UFC president Dana White was immediately impressed with McGregor. “Let me put it this away: I’m blown away,” White said after McGregor’s debut in Stockholm. “First of all, it’s his first fight ever in the UFC. He walked out tonight and got into the octagon like it was his 100th fight in the UFC.” It was the beginning of a profitable relationship.
From there, Conor’s run of dominance continued. He won five more fights, four of which didn’t make it through two rounds, and claimed the interim UFC Featherweight Championship against Chad Mendes. This put McGregor in a position to face Jose Aldo in a unification bout for the UFC Featherweight Championship. In the lead-up to the fight, McGregor was as cocky as ever, saying “I’m going to unify the belts, I’m going to destroy the [featherweight] division, and then I’m going to take the lightweight division as well.”
On December 12, 2015, McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds. It was the fastest finish ever for a UFC title fight. Again, it was his unstoppable left that did the job. True to his word, McGregor set out to win in the lightweight division, and a fight with Rafael dos Anjos for the title was set for UFC 196 in March, but dos Anjos had to withdraw after breaking his foot, leading former lightweight contender Nate Diaz to step up on short notice to face McGregor. Diaz had been training as a welterweight at 170 pounds, and McGregor decided he would gain the weight to meet him there, jumping two weight classes in just two weeks. “Weight should never be an issue,” he said. “Champions should be able to go up and down and fight any challenge that comes before them.” McGregor was the heavy favorite going into the fight, but would get caught in the second round and end up tapping out after Diaz locked in a rear-naked chokehold, giving McGregor the first loss of his UFC career. Despite his shocking loss to Nate Diaz, in 2016 McGregor became the first mixed martial artist to appear on Forbes list of the 100 highest-paid athletes, taking $22 million on the year between his fights with Diaz, Aldo, and a variety of sponsorships.
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Source: Rolling Stone
Additionally, 2016 saw McGregor’s profile rise further with a spread in ESPN’s Body Issue, with Conor baring all in a photoshoot for the magazine.
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After a series of negotiations that included McGregor being dropped from the UFC 200 for refusing to go on a press tour promoting the fight, “McGregor-Diaz 2” was set for UFC 202. The fight was a bloodbath, thrilling fans around the world. It would go down as one of McGregor’s most memorable performances in the octagon. In the end, McGregor outlasted Diaz in a rare fight for Conor that went all five rounds. Both fighters would once again receive “Fight of the Night” honors, with Conor winning by majority decision. Just three months later, he would challenge Eddie Alvarez for the UFC Lightweight Championship. The fight was set for UFC 205. In the prelude to the fight McGregor showed his normal confidence, telling his opponent to “Show up, take your ass whooping, and I’ll see you later.”
Source: Daily Star
Conor would win by TKO in the second round and become a two-division champion. After the win, McGregor said that he would take time off from fighting to wait for the birth of his child. During that time off, McGregor began pushing for a boxing match against Mayweather, bringing it up at public appearances and on social media like the Instagram post below. Rumors that negotiations were underway began swirling.
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On May 5, 2017, Conor Jack McGregor Jr. was born. McGregor often shows himself as a happy dad on Instagram.
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A month later, it was announced that the fight was officially on. Mayweather and McGregor would meet in the ring in Las Vegas for what would surely be the biggest fight of the year. McGregor made the announcement official with a post on Instagram, trolling the undefeated boxer.
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The build to the fight on August 26 was fast and furious. Both Mayweather and McGregor set out on a four-city tour to promote the fight, trading verbal jabs and obscenities along the way. At the kickoff to the tour in Los Angeles, McGregor made headlines with his wardrobe, wearing a custom suit with pinstripes that read “F— You” to anyone who got close enough to see it.
At their next confrontation in front of a particularly frisky crowd in Toronto, McGregor called out Mayweather’s rumored illiteracy, much to the delight of those who had gathered to watch the press conference.
But McGregor wasn’t without his detractors. He faced accusations of racism after some of his comments on the tour.
Not one to apologize, Conor did not back down, only promising to “break his face” when he met Mayweather in the ring.
Experts didn’t give McGregor much of a chance to beat Mayweather, with former champion Mike Tyson saying of Conor simply, “He’s gonna get killed.”
Additionally, some mocked McGregor for training sessions he made public, especially his bag work and his warm-up routine.
Many were surprised that the McGregor team didn’t bring more coaches with boxing experience, but Coach Kavanagh chose to keep things simple, saying “Too much new stuff … would be a disaster.” McGregor never really stood a chance against Mayweather, and was eventually dispatched by TKO in the 10th round.
But despite the loss, McGregor was still surely pleased with the result, earning a rumored $100 million for his role in the circus of a fight.
Source: MMA Fighting
After the Mayweather fight, McGregor took a bit more time off to enjoy his riches.
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He took in the 2018 World Cup final…
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And did so as a personal guest of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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But soon enough, there was reason to tease his return to the UFC.
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His natural opponent was Khabib Nurmagomedov, the undefeated Russian fighter who had taken over as champion of the lightweight division in McGregor’s absence. Things came to a head when McGregor bizarrely attacked a bus Nurmagomedov was on ahead of UFC 223, leading to several injuries to other fighters.
Tweet Embed: //twitter.com/mims/statuses/981954748491468803?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Conor McGregor. Picks up guard rail. Attempts to throw it at bus. ABSOLUTE CHAOS IN NEW YORK. #UFC223 (Via Felice Herrig’s IG story) pic.twitter.com/JYQZD7jtKP
McGregor would later explain that he was acting to protect his teammate Artem Lobov, who was confronted by Nurmagomedov at a hotel.
McGregor would be taken into custody and charged with assault for his attack, but ultimately got off relatively unscathed.
And thus, the stage was set for a fight between McGregor and Khabib for the UFC lightweight title. UFC even used footage of McGregor’s attack on the bus to promote the upcoming fight.
At the fight, Khabib dominated McGregor, eventually forcing him to tap out in the fourth round. When the final bell rang, Khabib would leap out of the octagon and start a brawl with some of McGregor’s teammates, resulting in suspensions for both fighters. Despite the loss, McGregor was expected to return to the octagon in 2019, having signed a six-fight deal with the UFC ahead of the Khabib fight.
Instead, McGregor shockingly announced his retirement from fighting in March of 2019.
But as is often the case, McGregor’s retirement didn’t stick, and he began needling for a rematch with Khabib.
But there were other fighters in line for a title shot though, meaning McGregor would have to wait his turn. In the mean time, McGregor had more trouble with the law. In March of 2019, McGregor was arrested after an encounter with a fan in Miami, slapping a phone out his hand and stomping on it.
Then in April, McGregor reportedly punched an older man in a Dublin pub after he refused a shot of the Irish fighter’s whiskey.
Over the course of the year, the New York Times also reported on two separate accusations of sexual assault against McGregor.
McGregor denied the accusations, saying that “time will show all.”
Eventually, McGregor starting focusing on his return to UFC. Longtime UFC contender Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone emerged as a potential opponent.
Leading up to their fight at UFC 246, McGregor’s trainer said his fighter was in the best shape of his life.
McGregor made quick work of Cerrone, knocking the Cowboy out in just 40 seconds after opening the fight with a devastating shoulder charge and ending it with a brutal series of punches.
After the fight, McGregor paid respect to his opponent, and even embraced Cowboy’s grandmother in the octagon.
A few months after the fight, McGregor announced his retirement once again, but it wouldn’t last long.
By August he was teasing another potential superstar boxing bout, this time against Manny Pacquiao.
But by October, his next UFC bout was in the works, setting up a rematch against Dustin Poirier on Fight Island.
McGregor previous beat Poirier in 2014, winning via first-round knockout. The two will face off again this Saturday at UFC 257. After Poirier, there’s plenty of other opponents McGregor might take on. He’s repeatedly expressed a desire for another shot at now-retired champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
McGregor has also been tied to a potential return to boxing, where a fight against Manny Pacquiao could potentially net $250 million.
There’s no telling what the future holds for McGregor. More Conor McGregor: