If you were asked which UFC fighter has had the biggest rise in the past five years, only one name really springs to mind. In fact, Conor McGregor is probably the fastest rising sports star in the entire world over the same period.
McGregor signed with UFC back in February 2013, and since then, he has become one of the biggest sports stars in the world. He became a household name to UFC fans when he defeated Chad Mendes at UFC 189 in July 2015 to become the interim Featherweight Champion.
However, Notorious became a household name to sports fans around the world when he knocked out Jose Aldo at UFC 194 in just 13 seconds to become the unified UFC Featherweight Champion. Since then, the Irishman has just become a bigger and bigger name on the global stage.
He had his two-fight series against Nate Diaz, before going on to become a two-division champion when he defeated Eddie Alvarez for the Lightweight title at UFC 205 in November 2016. He also made his boxing debut in a losing effort against Floyd Mayweather which recorded the second highest buy rate in the United States and Canada at 4.3 million pay-per-view buys.
McGregor has had huge success both inside and outside of the Octagon, but Dana White has given himself some serious credit for his global rise, as he said the following at UFC's ongoing anti-trust lawsuit in a deposition:
“Four years ago, Conor McGregor was available to everybody. Bellator, ONE FC, UFC, everybody out there. Do you know who went out- he was- he was 7 and 2, Okay? Guy’s record was 7 and 2. There’s a zillion of them, right? I went out and got Conor McGregor. I saw him, I liked his personality, and I turned him into a star, one of the biggest stars on earth right...”
This isn't factually correct, as McGregor was already a two-weight champion in Cage Warriors with significant hype amongst hardcore MMA fans, and his professional record was 12-2 when the UFC signed him, not 7-2.
UFC may have first noticed McGregor when he was 7-2, as this was when he defeated Paddy Doherty via knockout at Immortal Fighting Championship 4 in April 2011 in Letterkenny, Ireland in just four seconds.
Still, White's relationship with McGregor and his success can't be understated, as the Irishman might never have reached the global highest without UFC's help, but it's easy to see why some people might not fully back what the UFC president has said.
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