In April 2013, UFC President Dana White traveled to Dublin to receive an award from Trinity College. After accepting the Philosophical Society’s Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage, White dropped by The Temple Bar. There, he heard one name over and over.
“Everybody was saying, ‘Conor McGregor, Conor McGregor, Conor McGregor,’” White told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie. “I thought he was a heavyweight for some reason, the way everyone was talking about him.”
Intrigued, White told UFC matchmakers to sign the 24-year-old McGregor, who at the time held the Cage Warriors lightweight and featherweight titles.
Once in the UFC, it didn’t take McGregor long to make his presence felt both inside and outside the octagon. Equally talented in the cage or on the mic, McGregor has become the UFC’s biggest star.
He parlayed that star power into an Aug. 26 boxing match against undefeated multi-time boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, a matchup that could earn McGregor a nine-figure payday.
Before McGregor and Mayweather meet at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, here are 10 of McGregor’s most memorable outside-the-cage moments.
On June 7, 2008, more than 15,000 fans entered The 02 in London to witness UFC 85. The event was headlined by a catchweight bout between Thiago Alves and Matt Hughes. Alves won the contest by TKO in the second round, blasting Hughes with a flying knee.
One of the people in attendance that night was former UFC light heavyweight champion and future UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell. At some point during the event, a young Irish fighter, with a 2-0 record, shouted Liddell’s name and grabbed a selfie with the seemingly stunned Liddell. That young fighter was McGregor.
(McGregor was 19 at the time the photo was taken, not 16 as he indicated in his 2014 post.)
9. Welcome to the big stage
McGregor made his UFC debut at UFC on FUEL TV 9. He fought on the untelevised Facebook prelims that night and earned a TKO win over Marcus Brimage. A few hours after that victory, McGregor appeared at the post-fight news conference – a rarity for a preliminary card fighter.
Resplendent in a gray suit and bowtie, McGregor was practically giddy after he learned he had won the “Knockout of the Night” bonus.
“To be honest, I don’t know what’s going on here,” McGregor said. “I’m just up here hearing $60,000. I’m just thinking of what I’m going to spend it on. Maybe a nice car and some suits or something, some custom-made suits. I don’t know.
“Just last week I was collecting the social welfare. I was in there saying to them, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m signed to the UFC. I don’t know. Blah, blah, blah.’ Now I suppose I’m just going to have to tell them, ‘(Expletive) off!’”
8. Mystic Mac
UFC 178 marked the first time McGregor fought in Las Vegas. A large contingent of Irish fans witnessed McGregor dispatch Dustin Poirier at the 1:46 mark of the first round that night via strikes. After the fight, McGregor reminded everyone he had predicted a first-round knockout.
“I said I’d knock him out in the first round, and I knocked him out in the first round,” McGregor told UFC commentator Joe Rogan during his post-fight speech. “You can call me ‘Mystic Mac,’ because I predict these things.”
And with those words, McGregor guaranteed he would be asked for a prediction at every one of his pre-fight press conferences.
Since the birth of “Mystic Mac,” McGregor has been correct in his pre-fight predictions for first-round finishes of Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, but he’s been incorrect on Dennis Siver (second-round TKO), both Nate Diaz bouts (submission loss and majority decision win), and his win over Eddie Alvarez (second-round TKO).
As for the Mayweather fight, McGregor has predicted a knockout victory inside four rounds.
7. Might as well jump
McGregor headlined his first American event at UFC Fight Night 59. At the time, McGregor was the No. 7 featherweight in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings. His opponent that night was the unranked Siver.
McGregor finished Siver in the second round with strikes on the ground. He walked around the cage for a moment, then sprinted from the middle of the octagon and vaulted over the cage to confront then-champion Jose Aldo, who was sitting with his family. The meeting was brief. McGregor screamed into Aldo’s face, and Aldo replied with a smile.
After the fight McGregor addressed the situation.
“I don’t know,” McGregor said. “I just saw his skinny Brazilian head, and I knew they were filming him over there. ‘What’s he doing there, sitting front row?’
“They thought I was going to see my girlfriend. They must’ve thought I was a romantic. But I was going to kill that little Brazilian. But Pat, Lorenzo (Fertitta’s) right hand, intervened. And thankfully – because I like money. When fights happen outside the octagon, they take your money. And I want to keep my money.”
6. “Red Panty Night”
On Sept. 5, 2015, the UFC hosted the “Go Big” press conference, which focused on fight cards in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. Some of the UFC’s biggest stars were on stage for the event, including then-champions Ronda Rousey, Jose Aldo, Daniel Cormier and Rafael dos Anjos. Current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk also waas there. But the man who stole the show was then-featherweight champion McGregor.
Early in the press conference, MMAjunkie asked Dos Anjos and Donald Cerrone about comments McGregor made about facing either of them at lightweight because a fight with him would change their lives.
“If he wants to move up, I’m here. It’s going to be easy money,” replied Dos Anjos.
McGregor did not allow Cerrone to reply. Instead, he picked up his microphone and turned to address Dos Anjos.
“I can make you rich,” McGregor said. “I’ll change your bum life. When you sign to fight me, it’s a celebration. You ring back home, you ring your wife: ‘Baby, we’ve done it. We’re rich, baby. Conor McGregor made us rich. Break out the red panties!’
“It’s Red Panty Night when you sign to fight me. It’s a celebration.”
5. You’ll do nothing
The UFC 202 press conference was full of surprises. McGregor was late. That left his opponent, Diaz, on the dais with co-main event fighters Glover Teixeira and Anthony Johnson for 30 minutes.
When McGregor did appear, Nick Diaz told Nate to leave the stage, and the younger Diaz did. Not one to leave quietly, Diaz shouted, “(Expletive) your whole team,” on his way out.
“Shut your (expletive) mouth. You’ll do nothing,” McGregor responded with, “You’ll do (expletive) nothing.”
Diaz threw a water bottle toward McGregor on the stage. McGregor retuned fire, throwing water bottles and full cans of Monster at Diaz and his team while UFC President Dana White and UFC personnel tried to get him to stop.
McGregor was fined $25,000 and ordered to complete 25 hours of community service due to the skirmish. Diaz received a $15,000 fine along with 15 hours of community service.
4. Going for a walk
While many of McGregor’s catchphrases and mannerisms have become popular among the MMA community (see: “You’ll do nothing,” “Who the (expletive) is that guy” and “Red Panty Night”), one has had real crossover appeal, especially among pro athletes. That’s the “billionaire strut,” which took off in popularity following UFC 202.
McGregor lifted the move from WWE owner Vince McMahon, something he acknowledged during a January 2017 pay-per-view interview.
“I’m thinking Vince McMahon must be pissed,” McGregor said. “I don’t give a (expletive) about Vince McMahon. I stole that walk, and that walk is now mine. And not Vince or any of those (expletives) over in WWE are going to do anything about it. That’s my walk. I created that walk. I made that walk. It’s amazing to cross into all different cultures, all different sports.”
3. Who’s that?
The UFC held its first event in New York in more than 21 years on Nov. 12, 2016. The promotion went big for that event, UFC 205, stacking the card with three title fights. The main event pitted lightweight champion Alvarez against featherweight kingpin McGregor. Alvarez’s belt was on the line, giving McGregor the opportunity to become the first UFC fighter to hold two titles at the same time.
At a September news conference at The Theater at Madison Square Garden, a vociferous McGregor stole the show.
When McGregor was asked who would give him the hardest fight of the fighters on the stage, Jeremy Stephens cut in, not allowing McGregor to reply.
“Right here,” said Stephens from the row behind McGregor. “The hardest hitting 145 pounder. The real hardest hitting 145er, right here.”
McGregor didn’t miss a beat with his reply.
“Who the (expletive) is that guy?” asked McGregor. “Who the (expletive) is that?”
And with that reply, an MMA catchphrase was born.
2. No doubt
In July 2015, McGregor appeared on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show and fired a shot that made headlines, mostly because his request seemed an impossibility.
“If you’re asking would I like to fight Floyd, I mean, who would not like to dance around the ring for $180 million?” asked McGregor.
By May 2016, Mayweather’s interest seemed to be piqued and he allegedly started rumors that the fight was close to being booked.
More than a year later, Mayweather and McGregor announced the fight had been booked for Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
McGregor, the man who joined the UFC while near rock-bottom, financially, now is preparing to fight in what could be the most lucrative fight in boxing history. That the fight is happening brings to mind a McGregor quote from the UFC 202 post-fight press conference.
“Every single person doubted me,” said McGregor. “Every single fighter doubted me. Doubt me now.”
1. Those threads
At his first post-fight press conference, McGregor said he planned to spend some of his “Knockout of the Night” bonus money on “some suits.” Over the years, he has certainly done that. Those suits are usually custom-made and on the flashy side, but none compared to the pinstripe number he wore to the Los Angeles tour stop for his boxing match against Mayweather.
The suit, which was one of the main subjects of conversation after the July event, was not your normal pinstripe affair. If you looked closely you could see the pinstripes said “F**K YOU” running vertically.
As far as statement pieces go, the suit was a major one.
For more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.