Given how their first fight went, it does not appear too many fans were clamoring for a rematch between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz. However, just because something is unnecessary does not mean it is not extremely anticipated. The first McGregor vs. Diaz fight is among the best fights of 2016 so far, so fans should expect another outstanding fight from these two legendary fighters. Before he has his chance to avenge the loss he suffered earlier this year, let’s take a look back at ten of Conor McGregor’s highest points in his young but perhaps already Hall of Fame-worthy career.
10. Victory over Dennis Siver – UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver
The first item on this list is certainly not one of McGregor’s most notable victories. In fact, there are probably some out there who just remembered this fight even happened. However, the reason why it is one of the greatest overall moments of McGregor’s career is because it further cemented his star in the eyes of the UFC and the fan base. Taking place in Boston, the entire crowd was on their feet from the time McGregor walked into the arena to the time when he left it. The fight certainly was not the best, and McGregor did get taken down a couple times by Siver (a competent fighter, absolutely, but certainly not a ground specialist). Yet, it stands out as another display of McGregor’s style, technique, and personality that make him stand out to the fans as the fighter to watch.
9. Loss to Nate Diaz – UFC 196
For obvious reasons, a loss should typically be nowhere near a “Top 10 Greatest” list. However, not only did McGregor shine in his losing effort against Nate Diaz earlier this year, he did so in spite of numerous variables going against him. The original fight, a Lightweight Championship bout against then-Champion Rafael dos Anjos, was 10 lbs. above McGregor’s weight class. Then, when the bout was switched to Nate Diaz due to an injury to dos Anjos, it jumped up to 170 lbs., which is 25 lbs. heavier than what McGregor normally fights at. Also, he was dealing with a man in Nate Diaz who was significantly longer and taller than anyone McGregor had ever battled. Yet, McGregor went out and fought a terrific fight for the first seven minutes, busting up Nate Diaz several times over. Despite losing the fight in the end, this fight showed McGregor’s true heart for fighting, and he deserves credit for showing the kind of champion he is.
8. Victory Over Max Holloway – UFC Fight Night: Shogun vs. Sonnen
Ironically, most did not pay much attention to this fight when it happened, because many expected McGregor to simply walk through another opponent and continue blazing his trail. However, it is not until now that we can look back at this fight and appreciate how big of a win it actually is for McGregor. Max Holloway has proven himself to be one of the most exciting and dynamic fighters in the division in years passed, so any victory over him should not be taken lightly. It was a solid and competitive fight for McGregor, who won the decision with a knee injury. Although he did not get the finish, he did show his durability, and it showed the level of opponent he has capable of hanging in against.
7. Victory Over Marcus Brimage – UFC on Fuel TV 9
In McGregor’s first fight in the Octagon, he certainly did not disappoint. Despite carrying a significant amount of hype and pressure going into the bout, McGregor carried himself like a true professional. McGregor confidently walked into the Octagon and beautifully dissected the competent TUF 14 competitor Marcus Brimage, utilizing the crisp striking that has made him a modern legend. Fighters only have one first impression, and McGregor’s made him an instant star.
6. Victory Over Dustin Poirier – UFC 178
It only took four fights in the UFC for McGregor to be featured prominently on a pay-per-view card; that is an accomplishment itself. However, it is another thing altogether to have more anticipation than the main event (it was a Demetrius Johnson-headlined PPV, so maybe it’s not that difficult after all…). Yet, that’s exactly what happened between McGregor and Dustin Poirier. These two had a tremendous amount of animosity going into their bout at UFC 178, with Poirier promising to stop the McGregor hype train dead in its tracks. However, quite the opposite happened. Less than two minutes into the fight, McGregor landed a beautiful combination that sent Poirier careening to the floor, and he McGregor finished him off with strikes at 1:48 of the first round. McGregor even predicted he would beat him within two minutes of the first round! McGregor stole the card with his natural charisma and extreme capability, and it made for an electric and powerful moment in McGregor’s UFC run.
5. Victory over Diego Brandao – UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao
In only his third fight in the Octagon, McGregor took on a minor rival in Diego Brandao, the TUF 14 Champion in the main event of a Fight Night card. That is almost unheard of (see: Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin I). A mini rivalry developed between these two in the weeks leading up to their clash, with Brandao claiming he would stop the McGregor hype train before it really started (sense a pattern?). The event took place in Dublin, Ireland, where the fans expectedly went completely bonkers for McGregor. The atmosphere was surreal, with thousands upon thousands of fight fans in McGregor’s corner. McGregor’s impressive first round TKO over Brandao heightened the moment, which sent the crowd’s excitement into the stratosphere. It was an emotional moment for McGregor and fight fans, but it was not McGregor’s victory that fans took away from that event…
4. “We’re not here to take part. We’re here to take over!” – UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao
The sheer electricity of the moment when McGregor won in front of a rabid Dublin, Ireland crowd was palpable. However, it was his follow-up victory speech that pushed the moment into iconic status. McGregor shared the Octagon with Dan Hardy, who was just as excited as everyone else in the building. When interviewed, McGregor praised the efforts of his fellow Irish fighters on that card, all of whom were impressive. McGregor then said, “We’re not here to take part. We’re here to take over!” An exhilarating moment made better by the insane crowd, McGregor’s quote was not just a huge moment for his career, but for his fellow European fights as well. McGregor put the rest of the division on notice with this victory, and his stature would only rise from here.
3. Winning the Interim UFC Featherweight Championship – UFC 189
Some will detract from this moment and make claims like, “It wasn’t a fair fight. Had Chad Mendes had a full camp, he would’ve smoked McGregor.” Regardless of exterior circumstances, what McGregor accomplished over Chad Mendes at UFC 189 was nothing short of spectacular. Chad Mendes filled in for an injured Aldo, and the bout became an Interim title fight. At the event itself, fans were treated to amazing entrances of both Mendes and McGregor, who had live music performed for them as they both walked to the Octagon. In the early stages of the fight, McGregor fans were disheartened as Mendes began to take McGregor down and land some decent strikes on the ground. McGregor’s championship hopes were slowly escaping him. However, towards the end of the second round, McGregor craftily escaped a guillotine attempt from Mendes and proceeded to land extremely sharp bombs on Mendes. With ten seconds left in the round, McGregor landed a massive left that that sent Mendes to the floor, and McGregor finished him off with three seconds left in the round. It was an exhilarating and emotional moment for McGregor, and it launched him into another level of stardom.
2. “You’re lookin’ at the King of Dublin!” – UFC 189 Dublin Press Conference
There is something to be said about the fact that the single most defining moment of McGregor’s career does not take place inside the cage. At a Dublin press conference for their UFC 189 bout, then-Champion Jose Aldo decided to take a shot at the rampant, pro-McGregor crowd, by proclaiming himself (via his translator) to be “The King of Dublin.” Obviously, neither McGregor nor the crowd took this lightly. McGregor kicked back in his chair and yelled at Aldo, “You’re lookin’ at the King of Dublin! You’re lookin’ at him!” McGregor then got up from his chair and yanked Aldo’s championship belt from where it was sitting in front of him. This drew the ire of Aldo, who had to be restrained by Dana White as McGregor proudly bolstered the championship belt. It may have disturbed Aldo, but it enthralled the crowd, who had never seen something like that done at a press conference. The reason this moment is so significant is because it is a perfect symbolization for McGregor’s UFC run so far: he came out of nowhere to take the organization by force, and people have loved him for it. An enthralling, iconic moment that perfectly encapsulates who McGregor is and what he is capable of.
1. Winning the UFC Featherweight Championship – UFC 194
Of course, the greatest moment in McGregor’s illustrious career comes in the form of his greatest achievement: winning the UFC Featherweight Championship. This was perhaps the single most anticipated fight in the history of the sport: McGregor had already come in and taken the UFC by force, and then-Champion Jose Aldo had not lost a fight in the decade previous. All the hype was there for the fight to be an instant classic. However, 13 seconds after the bell rung, the fight was over, and it took McGregor one perfectly-placed punch to accomplish everything he said he would accomplish. It brought McGregor up from being the biggest name in fighting to being one of the all-time greats in fighting, and it is certainly worthy of being the crowning achievement in his young but legendary career.
Are there any moments we missed that should be on the list? Please let us know in the comments below!
(Chris Moore is a new MMATorch contributor who will write a weekly in-depth Top Ten List on a particular subject in the Specialists section of MMATorch. He has been passionate about MMA since 2009.)