This weekend’s UFC on Fuel TV card is significant for a great many reasons, be it the UFC debuts of Strikeforce alums like Gegard Mousasi and Ryan Couture, the fact that it marks only the company’s second foray into Scandinavia or the host of exciting matches but for fans of Cage Warriors and Irish MMA one match catches the eye even though it’s buried on the undercard.
Conor McGregor is coming to the UFC.
If you are among those who don’t get a littler shiver at those words, a little backstory may be required.
A product of the SBG Ireland team alongside current and past Cage Warriors champions like Cathal Pendred and Chris Fields as well as standouts like Aisling Daly, John Michael Shiel and current UFC wunderkind Gunnar Nelson under the tutelage of John Kavanagh, McGregor has been turning heads since his pro debut in 2008.
Going 4-2 over the first 30 months of his career, with four (T)KO wins and two submission losses (incidentally to highly regarded talents Artemij Sitenkov and Joseph Duffy who at the time they met had record of 5-4 and 6-0 respectiely, versus 2-0 and 4-1 for Conor) he impressed without developing the type of streak that immediately gets casual fans hailing you as the next big thing.
That changed with six knockout wins in a row through 2011 and early 2012 earning him a crack at the then-vacant Cage Warriors Featherweight title in June 2012.
He won that belt with a second round submission of Dave Hill and announced his arrival as one of the brightest talents on the European stage.
Twice, highly anticipated defences against Jim Alers fell through due to me or other man being injured and this led to McGregor being given a crack at the Cage Warriors Lightweight title on New Year’s Eve against experienced submission specialist Ivan Buchinger.
That match speaks for itself, so please take a few minutes…
That win made McGregor a double weight class Cage Warriors champion and the manner in which he became only the second man in twenty five fights to stop Buchinger clearly made some folks on the other side of the Atlantic sit up and take notice.
The UFC swooped and Cage Warriors were left with two vacated belts once again, but pretty much everyone in Europe was excited by the prospect of “Notorious” testing himself at the very highest level.
Conor has never been to a decision, indeed in his fourteen fights he’s never yet seen the third round, he finishes fights with his fists and an underrated submission game, and with an apparent weakness for subs long behind him and riding an streak of eight stoppage victories in a row, he rides into the UFC with some serious momentum and some well deserved hype.
What could be better?
Well, the fact that he’s got real character. For a start, he’s Irish which tells you a little bit, but more than that he truly deserves his “Notorious” moniker, being an engaging interview and likeable guy (as seen on last week’s MMA Hour and the MTV documentary ‘the Rise of Conor McGregor’) with a distinctive and wholly original and individual personality.
This is no cookie cutter hot prospect, with the usual tough guy demeanour or pat BJJ zen. McGregor is like calm chaos, a perfect storm and he’s riding a wave of momentum and dragging Irish MMA into the mainstream (along with his teammates and promotions like Cage Warriors, Cage Contender and Celtic Gladiator) on his coat tails.
Featherweights of the UFC, be afraid, be VERY afraid.