The meteoric rise of Conor McGregor from his UFC debut in April 2013 to his crowning as two-division world champ at Madison Square Garden is nothing short of astonishing.
He’s now the first and only person to hold UFC titles in two weight classes, which quite literally puts him in a class of his own. He definitely still has his fair share of detractors, but lets offer up some evidence that show just how unique a fighter “Mystic Mac” really is.
Only fighter to beat Jose Aldo in the UFC
Jose Aldo was (and still is) a monster. Unbeaten for almost a decade, with only 1 loss prior to fighting McGregor, and with no contenders coming close to finishing him, Aldo is a very tough man to beat. And McGregor did it in just 13 seconds.
Fastest title finish in UFC history
Conor’s 13-second KO over Aldo put him in the history books for the fastest title finish in UFC history, whether by KO or submission. It was faster than Andre Arlovski’s 15-second KO of Paul Buentello, and Ronda Rousey’s 14-second submission win over Cat Zingano.
Headliner of the highest earning cards
Having McGregor on the card is a sure way to rake in the big bucks. His three recent bouts (Aldo, Nate Diaz, Nate Diaz 2) are all in the top 4 in UFC pay-per-view (PPV) buys—Brock Lesnar’s UFC 100 sits pretty at number 3. And the only reason UFC 205 isn’t included in the rankings is because the UFC has yet to disclose the numbers. But according to UFC president Dana White, UFC 205 “broke the record” for PPV buys. That would mean that McGregor, who’s fought four times in the last 12 months, has headlined the UFC’s highest grossing events.
He’s raising the bar for fighter pay
“Mystic Mac” is on the Forbes list for highest paid athletes of 2016 with his salary/ winnings pegged at $18M and endorsements at $4M. He also had a $3M payday in his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202, and it’s yet to be announced just how much he made at UFC 205. But for the UFC’s first card in NYC, it’s safe to speculate that McGregor earned big money there as well.
And get this: He wants equity and part ownership of the UFC next. When have we ever heard a fighter ask for this? While some are fighting over shoe deals and bonus money (which are important nonetheless); McGregor is asking for equity. If that’s not changing the game, then we don’t know what is.
One of the few to compete at three different UFC weight classes
The Irishman is also one of the few to compete in three weight classes: featherweight, lightweight, and welterweight. Others who have competed in three UFC weight classes include BJ Penn, Kenny Florian, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. McGregor may be 1-1 at welterweight, but he holds the belts in the other two divisions.
Only the third fighter to win UFC titles in two weight classes
Prior to UFC 205, only two other fighters had won UFC titles in separate weight classes: BJ Penn (lightweight and welterweight) and Randy Couture (light heavyweight and heavyweight). Now, McGregor is a part of this very exclusive group.
First fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously
As amazing as winning titles in different weight classes may be, it’s a different story when you hold both simultaneously. That’s something only Conor McGregor has done.
You may think that McGregor has achieved all these simply ‘cus it’s the luck of the Irish, or he’s been coddled by the UFC, or he’s hyped himself into advantageous positions. But as MMAJunkie’s Ben Fowlkes has said, as reiterated by MMAFighting’s Ariel Helwani: McGregor’s success and greatest asset is his lack of fear for failure, of embarrassing himself.
Who else puts himself out there and says he’ll win via KO in one round? Who accepts fights repeatedly on short notice? Who else guns for fights in heavier weight classes?
The man is unafraid to fail even on the biggest stage. And so far, it’s worked out for him.