UFC news: Conor McGregor changed the game forever and made it what it is today

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In a sport full of controversial characters, UFC has never seen anyone divide opinion as much as Conor McGregor.

From accusations of racism to assaulting an elderly man in a pub, the 32-year-old certainly has his detractors. Yet, McGregor certainly knows how to grab the public's attention.

The Irishman made his UFC debut back in April 2013. It did not last long. Marcus Brimage was dispatched within the opening round.

His next win was arguably his most underrated. McGregor took on future featherweight champion Max Holloway, and despite tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, he still won via unanimous decision.

By now, the popular southpaw was gathering momentum. That only continued in his following fight when he delivered a knockout finish in front of his hometown crowd in Dublin.

There was seemingly no stopping McGregor. After swatting aside Dustin Poirier and Chad Mendes, he finally got his title shot in December 2015 against long-standing champion Jose Aldo.

The trash-talking reached new levels, the animosity between the pair was there for all to see. Would the pressure get to McGregor? Not a bit of it. Aldo lasted just 13 seconds as McGregor landed his trademark left hand to the jaw. It remains the fastest-ever finish to a UFC title fight.

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Indeed, that is far from the only record that McGregor holds. He has featured in the top three highest-rated PPV main events ever. 

One of those was his first defeat in UFC which arrived in March 2016 against Nate Diaz. Having dominated the opening five minutes, McGregor visibly tired in the second round and was forced to submit. 

Most fighters struggle to recover after a loss. Their earnings drop and fans show less interest. It can be tough to cope with. Not for McGregor.

Even more fans tuned in for the rematch, McGregor earned a fortune, and more importantly, he won in a classic match-up. He was back better than ever.

As if to reinforce that point, McGregor then put in arguably his best ever performance in the UFC when he won the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez in November 2016. In a virtuoso display, McGregor knocked his opponent down on multiple occasions before finishing the fight in the second round. He became the first man to hold two belts simultaneously in the process. Another record to add to the list.

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McGregor was the most popular fighter in the UFC by a distance at this stage. He could do what he wanted next. That's exactly what he did.

In an unprecedented move, he took on the undefeated Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match in Las Vegas. The build-up was extraordinary. There was a world tour that generated widespread interest amongst boxing and UFC fans.

Who would come out on top? McGregor started well, but was eventually outclassed and stopped by Mayweather in the 10th round. 

Perhaps McGregor would retire now. He had achieved so much in such a short space of time. Instead, he decided to return to the UFC to face his toughest opponent yet.

In McGregor's absence, Khabib Nurmagomedov had dominated the lightweight division. The Irish southpaw wanted his title back. Once again, the build-up was controversial. Khabib threatened McGregor's sparring partner and friend Artem Lobov, whilst McGregor responded by attacking a bus full of UFC fighters including Khabib. 

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The date was set. On October 6, 2018, 2.4m viewers watched to see who would win this ultimate grudge match. Khabib controlled most of the action and won via submission in the fourth round, before jumping out of the cage to fight McGregor's teammate Dillon Danis. A truly remarkable end to an iconic night. 

Again, fans wondered if McGregor was done. He had earned more money than any UFC fighter before him, and it wasn't even close.

Yet, McGregor returned in January 2020 and won in 40 seconds, demolishing Donald Cerrone with a combination of kicks, punches and shoulder strikes. 

He has since retired, but not many believe that he has left the Octagon behind for good. 

When McGregor joined UFC seven years ago, it was an organisation that was steadily growing. He took the company to levels that they could not have imagined.

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Of course, there have been legendary names such as Randy Couture, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva who have wowed fans over the years, however, no one has had the appeal that McGregor has.

From his pay-per-view figures to his bank account and his quick finishes, he truly is one of a kind, and has made UFC a sport that is now appreciated globally.

His antics will not please everyone. He seems to have been in court more than the Octagon in the last couple of years. His achievements cannot be denied, though. 

He's probably not done yet either.

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