“I don’t feel like a contender, I feel like a king,” UFC featherweight Conor McGregor says with a sly grin stretching across his face as he sits in the conference room at the UFC offices in Las Vegas. Dressed in one of his 50 custom made suits, McGregor is already speaking like a champion despite being ranked outside of the top 5 in division. He may lack the portfolio of a champion but the one thing he doesn’t lack is confidence.
The UFC has been waiting for a fighter like McGregor to come along. An anomaly of sorts, the 26-year-old Irishman’s impact on the sport has been loud and clear. A brash fireball of words, punches and kicks, McGregor made his UFC debut last April and the hype train officially started. With a 3-0 UFC record (15-2 overall) and an entire country behind him, McGregor is already a star. But his UFC 178 showdown with top 5 featherweight Dustin Poirier will tell us whether or not McGregor is worth having the “super” placed in front of his star.
Make no mistake about it; even though he’s not in the main event, UFC 178 is certainly the Conor McGregor show. His last fight against Diego Brandao in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland was a massive success and the most watched event in the short history of UFC Fight Pass as well as Irish network 3e’s biggest sporting event in the channel’s history. “I’m only starting my journey,” the rags to riches McGregor says while adjusting his cufflink. Before his UFC career began, McGregor was living on government assistance with no bank account. Today he’s decked out in an expensive suit and staying at the presidential suite in a Las Vegas hotel. “This is the beginning of the takeover. This whole game is mine. Nobody has ever seen anybody like me.”
The only thing that has slowed McGregor down was a knee injury that kept him out of the cage for 10 months. But if the injury had an ass, McGregor would have tried to kick it. That’s just the kind of fighter he is and he is visibly itching to get back in the cage on September 27. With so much momentum already gained in such a short amount of time, one has to wonder if McGregor will get lost in his own hype. But the Irishman says that he’s a long way from being satisfied and a taste of the good life is exactly what he needs to remain hungry.
“It’s pretty easy for me to stay hungry,” he explains. “When I’m going to get these suits that are custom made or walking in these presidential suites with marble floors, I’m hungry. Have you ever walked on marble floors barefoot? It feels phenomenal. This is what drives me. I don’t get comfortable. I want that every single second of my life.” McGregor’s arrival in the UFC was a noisy one as he scored a scintillating first round TKO against heavy handed Marcus Brimage last April. But it wasn’t the knockout so much as it was his ability to spew gold on the microphone afterwards that made the UFC realize that they had something special on their hands. Even during this conversation at the UFC offices, McGregor knows what to say and has no filter. He cracks jokes, makes brash predictions (“I’ll hit Poirier with a jab, make him do the stanky leg and finish him in the first round”) and offers a number of anecdotes that outline his life in Ireland that make him both endearing and somewhat polarizing. But no matter how you feel about McGregor, the one thing you will do is listen and watch when he steps into a room.
“I speak like this all the time,” he says while smirking when asked if he’s aware that he’s filling a void in the UFC. “This is who I am and always was. If there was a void that needed to be filled I’m going to cram that motherfucker and fill it.” A win against Poirier would be huge for McGregor as it would catapult him into the upper echelon of the division and put him right in the mix for a featherweight title shot. But McGregor doesn’t want to be “in the mix.” He’s a fighter’s fighter who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the gold around his waist. After his fight with Brandao back in July, McGregor practically begged the UFC to fight Poirier on September 27. Even though it would mean a shorter training camp, McGregor had no qualms with it and the fight was made. Should he get past Poirier and something were to happen to UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo’s opponent Chad Mendes on their scheduled title fight on October 25, McGregor would happily step in on short notice.
“You’re damn right I’d be ready for that fight,” he says when asked if he would be ready to fight in 4 weeks should the opportunity present itelf. “I stay ready! Its my logo. At Dethrone.com I have a line of stay ready panties that are the fastest selling panties in Dethrone history. I’m always in the gym and always ready. I don’t stop. This is what I love to do.” He’s already rubbed a few people wrong with his mouth that never stops running. But that’s the charm of McGregor as long as he can back it up. And that’s what make McGregor’s run in this sport interesting: his ability to prove himself inside of the cage. As bombastic as he is when a microphone is shoved in his face, he’s just as devastating and entertaining inside of the cage. Once the bell sounds, McGregor is a whirlwind of punches and kicks. He’s technically sound but always has a few tricks up his sleeve. It could be a cartwheel kick or a punch from an angle you didn’t know existed. But each and every fight finds McGregor trying something new.
“I just look to learn different styles and every day I try new kicks and moves,” McGregor says of his prowess. “I want to grow as a martial artist. I feel that most martial artists just stagnate after they reach a certain level. It’s quite similar to how I see my opponent. He’s never grown. If you look back at my past contests, I always have a new shot in my arsenal. I’m only scratching the surface skill wise and I already feel that I’m better than everyone.” Whether McGregor becomes the biggest star in the UFC has yet to be seen but he’s already on the right path. He’s willing to take it one fight at a time, but he isn’t willing to wait in anybody’s line. From the mean streets of Dublin to the presidential suites of Las Vegas, McGregor recognizes that differences between the two lifestyles and will be damned if he has to go back. All he has to do is keep winning and we’ll keep watching.
“I already feel like I’m the champion and all I have to do is take everybody out. And I will take them all out. Name one person who came in and went at everyone. That’s what I’m here to do whether they like it or not.”