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Conor McGregor: Reliving the biggest fights of his career

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Conor McGregor is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in the UFC right now, drawing crowds to everything he does, from selling out arenas for fights to getting thousands in just to see his weigh-ins.

However, the journey didn't start for McGregor with bright lights and throngs of adoring fans travelling across the Atlantic Ocean to watch him win time after time again.

It was the exact opposite in fact, with The Notorious One's road to greatness starting over eight years ago in something resembling a school sports hall. In this piece, we're going to look back at McGregor's opponents from that time, before he was so Notorious.

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Gary Morris

The man who Conor McGregor made his professional debut against, Gary Morris didn't last long against the future UFC featherweight champion.

While he did make it to the second round against a then 19-year-old McGregor, 'The Dump Truck' only managed to stay in the contest for eight seconds in the second before the referee stepped in with McGregor delivering a barrage of punches while on top. 

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The fight at Cage of Truth 2 was also Morris' pro debut and he has stuck around in the fight game, amassing an 8-9 record with his latest encounter ending in a win via TKO over Declan Dalton at CW - Clan Wars 24 back in April of this year.

Artemij Sitenkov

McGregor won his second fight, against Mo Taylor easily with a first round KO, and moved on to Artemij Sitenkov - a Russian fighter who had some experience but who wasn't seen as much of a threat by McGregor's coaches.

They severely underestimated Sitenkov, who became the first fighter to expose McGregor's weak ground game.

69 fateful seconds after the first bell sounded, McGregor lay on the ground in pain while Sitenkov's arm was being raised by the referee. 

Sitenkov didn't even try to fight on his legs, going for the takedown immediately and keeping the fight there until he spotted an opportunity and sunk in a kneebar that forced McGregor to tap for the first time inside the octagon.

McGregor wasn't Artemij's only big scalp as he would go on to defeat another future UFC star in Neil Seery. The recent past hasn't been kind, however, with Sitenkov losing nine of his last ten fights, two of which took place this year.

Joseph Duffy

After the embarrassment of losing to an unknown Russian, Conor McGregor managed to rebound, winning his next two fights in convincing fashion, both via TKO in the first round.

And then he faced off against Joe Duffy at Cage Warriors 39: The Uprising, who was unbeaten at the time and another of the best MMA prospects in Ireland at the time. 

Unfortunately for McGregor, this fight went pretty similarly to the way the Sitenkov one did. Duffy realised early on that he probably couldn't keep up with McGregor's standup game, getting his eyebrow split open by a big punch, and took The Notorious to the ground. 

Duffy quickly got an arm-triangle choke in and Conor was forced to tap out, with just 38 seconds gone in the contest. Yet again, McGregor was exposed. After this fight, McGregor wouldn't lose for another six years. 

Duffy has proven that his win over McGregor wasn't a fluke, getting signed by the UFC in January 2015 and having four fights with the promotion to date, going 3-1. 

Dave Hill

After the loss to Duffy, McGregor rattled off six straight wins against varying degrees of competition to take his record in MMA to 8-2. 

That was when Cage Warriors gave the Irishman his first title opportunity, taking on Dave Hill for the vacant CWFC Featherweight Championship.

Hill had lost two of his last three before facing McGregor, both to future UFC fighters, but the Englishman still went into the contest confident, not seeing what all the fuss was about with the cocky McGregor, who was starting to make a name for himself.

He really should've paid more attention, as McGregor dominated the fight, proving far too quick for the talented grappler Hill to take and keep down. McGregor won the first round comfortably and then got the win in the second, via rear-naked choke - his first ever submission win - and was the champ. 

Hill hasn't fought since 2014 and seems happy in his role as a graphic designer in Warwickshire. 

Marcus Brimage

After defeating Hill to become Featherweight Champion, McGregor also beat Ivan Buchinger to claim the CWFC Lightweight Title as well. 

That was all Dana White and co. needed to see to bring McGregor into the UFC and they did it in 2013, putting him up against Marcus Brimage, formerly of The Ultimate Fighter, who had cultivated a nice four-win streak.

That streak ended when McGregor decimated Brimage in just over a minute after a barrage of blows. Conor McGregor was finally in the big time, and he wasn't going anywhere.

Since losing to McGregor, Brimage's career has gone markedly downhill, winning just one of his last five fights since that night in Sweden.

Chad Mendes

This was the one. No matter if it wasn't on the biggest stage, for the biggest prize, or in front of the biggest crowd - the fight against Chad Mendes cemented Conor McGregor as a star in the UFC.

His "trash-talker, sky-walker" reached new heights. People who weren't that into MMA knew who Conor McGregor was now, with the UFC and media truly embracing his archaically braggadocious personality.

After being sung to the octagon by Sinead O'Connor, McGregor - with thousands of his countrymen cheering him on at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas - started the encounter with an outrageous spinning heel kick but was caught by Mendes with a couple of big shots, one of which opened up his right eye, as well as a couple of troubling Mendes takedowns in the first round.

The second round consisted of one Mendes takedown, a failed guillotine choke, and a flurry of punches from McGregor that the American was too tired to defend or counter, with Herb Dean stepping in with less than three seconds left in the round.

Conor McGregor was the interim UFC featherweight champion. He finally had some silverware.

UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor

Jose Aldo

Now McGregor was really in the big-time, becoming the most well-known fighter in UFC history and finally transitioning into the global superstar that could sell ice to an Eskimo and insult them while he does it.

With all that popularity, however, comes even bigger fights and Jose Aldo was the biggest test of McGregor's career. 

We all know how it ended....

13 seconds for McGregor to become the UFC Featherweight champion. Not a bad days work. 

The two will likely face off after McGregor-Diaz 2 at UFC 202 in McGregor's first title defense. The first defense of his career. We will have to wait and see how it goes.

UFC 196: Weigh-ins

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Topics:
Dana White
UFC
Conor McGregor

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