Fighters are supposed to enter the Octagon, win, and then declare their intention to become champion. Along the way they run into someone else who’s done the same and they lose. They go on to win some, lose some, and if they’re lucky, one day they’ll challenge for a UFC championship. An even more miniscule number of fighters will actually win it. That’s the way we understood the game to that point.
Well, one year after that memorable promo, McGregor stopped Chad Mendes in the second round to become the interim UFC Featherweight Champion. Watching McGregor push off a turtled Mendes, flex his lats, and then embrace his corner in front of yet another raucous crowd was yet another all-time great moment. But then reality sank in. For him to claim the real UFC championship, he’d have to not only create an all-time great moment, he’d have to beat an all-time great fighter in Jose Aldo.
Six months later, he starched Aldo in 13-seconds to claim the undisputed UFC Featherweight Championship.
Then earlier this year, it happened. Conor McGregor was defeated. It was the moment that we’d anticipated since McGregor first had the temerity to even suggest he was something special. Things finally seemed to have normalized for the brash Irishman. But he regathered himself, challenged Nate Diaz to a rematch under the same disadvantageous circumstances as the first contest, and defeated him in an all-time great fight.
With a win over his rival and a bit of his mojo back, McGregor refocused his energy on taking over the game and defeated Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter to hold two UFC championships at the same time. Him sitting atop the Octagon and raising double gold was, you guessed it, an all-time great moment.
But it was more than that. At this point McGregor has created so many all-time great moments that he himself is now an all-time great fighter. To this point, we’ve imagined the path to becoming an all-time great to be sustained dominance of one weight class. Throughout the history of the sport, we’ve only seen Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Jon Jones do it. But the rise of the “Notorious” one is unlike anything we’ve seen. We haven’t just seen McGregor dominate in one weight class. Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen him earn victories in three of them.
McGregor walks, talks, and fights like he has no fear. Quite frankly, he manages his career the same way. Two years ago McGregor not only declared his intention to take over the game, but he sent out a tweet stating that he intended to hold two championships and have shares in the UFC. He’s now closer to that goal than any rational person could have anticipated. Against Nate Diaz he proved to an extent that he’s bigger than just wins and losses. Perhaps he’s proven he’s even bigger than the sport.
Conor McGregor has put himself in the same category with the MMA’s most accomplished fighters, but when it’s all said and done he may stand alone as its most historically significant fighter.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS AMADI’S TAKE: Beating the best fellow contenders in fight after fight doesn’t necessarily earn you a title shot in UFC, and it’s a growing problem
(Follow longtime MMATorch columnist Jason Amadi on Twitter @JasonAmadi.)