Conor McGregor: UFC's King Ruled 2015, and His Reign Is Just Beginning - Rolling Stone
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Conor McGregor: UFC’s King Ruled 2015, and His Reign Is Just Beginning

MMA’s new star capped a wild year by KOing Jose Aldo in record time to win the Featherweight title – and 2016 could be even bigger

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor, the new face of UFC.

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Conor McGregor wants to rule the world, and no one can stop him.

McGregor’s (19-2) crowning achievement came on Saturday night, when he knocked out longtime pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo (25-2) in just 13 seconds at UFC 194 to become undisputed UFC Featherweight Champion. His visions of glory have all come true since his debut with the organization in April 2013 – the apex being the record-setting finish of Aldo, which McGregor predicted prior to the fight.

Although the likes of Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Brock Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva had their time as the sport’s brightest star, no one in history compares to McGregor – and he knows it. Ronda Rousey may be the mainstream face of the company, but her shocking loss to Holly Holm last month has cast her future into doubt. Luckily, McGregor is there to fill the void. And he’s got the numbers to back up his rise.

UFC 194 just set a U.S. gate record of $10.1 million. Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena was filled with 16,516 fans for McGregor’s bout, the biggest crowd of the 98 events ever held by UFC in Sin City. Another 2,500 watched via closed circuit, and according to UFC officials, the pay-per-view is trending to be an all-time success. UFC 100 in July 2009 holds the UFC pay-per-view record at a reported 1.6 millions buys. Its possible UFC 194 could break that benchmark.

That’s thanks almost entirely to McGregor, and his unique position was never more apparent then when he arrived to UFC 194’s post-fight press conference and overtook the podium like a prizefighter of old. In the midst of declaring his intention to move up a weight class and secure a second UFC belt, the brash Irishman said he’s just scratched the surface when it comes to mainstream appeal.

“I’m only warming up,” he boasted. “At 27 years of age, with every record in the book, with weight divisions above ready for me to go at, super fights left and right, tell me one other champion that’s been like that? Every other champion, they don’t want to go up, they don’t want to go down. I’m going straight up. I’m bringing these numbers and the sky’s the limit.”

McGregor earned a disclosed salary of $500,000 for UFC 194, which works out to $38,461 per second of cage time. He also received a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” award as well as a contracted cut of pay-per-view revenue. Not bad for 13 seconds of work. But McGregor said he’s still not satisfied. He wants to set records not just for UFC, but all of combat sports.

In May, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao slow-danced for 12 rounds and drew $72 million at the gate ­– and sold more than 4.4 million pay-per-views. Those numbers make UFC 194’s success seem paltry by comparison, but with youth and momentum on his side, McGregor thinks he’ll be the man to push MMA past boxing. It’s just a matter of time.

“What did Floyd vs. Manny do? $72 million gate? I’m catching up,” he laughed. “I’m only 27 – them old muddafuckers were 40.”

At his current rate, perhaps the only person who can stop McGregor is McGregor himself. He’s been nearly untouchable inside the Octagon, winning his past five fights by knockout, but admitted prior to UFC 194 that he “lost his mind” because of his obsession for the sport. Couple that with his outsize personality and outlandish excesses, and you can see why some believe me may burn bright, then fade fast.

“I’m so lost in it that I can’t imagine anything else – like Vincent van Gogh” McGregor said. “He lost his mind in his game. But I am happy with that. I feel to reach the high pinnacle in anything you do, you must almost become insane to what you are doing.”

One person unconcerned about McGregor’s stability is UFC President Dana White. Although there were rumors of a rift between the organization and fighter prior to UFC 194, McGregor confirmed he recently signed a new contract that’s “a very good one.” White said the current state of his relationship with McGregor is strong and that he believes in his potential.

“Conor McGregor is a very unique individual,” White told FOX Sports 1 following UFC 194. “He eats pressure for breakfast. He eats pressure like nobody I’ve ever seen in my life. When you can find somebody like that [who] can speak the way that he does and he’s so quick-witted and super-talented and can just handle the pressure – that’s all the ingredients of a superstar.”

McGregor has been doubted every step of the way, but continues to prove naysayers wrong. An Irish athlete competing at the highest level in the UFC was a pipe dream several years ago, but now the country has its first champion. McGregor was mocked for his unflappable confidence when he proclaimed he’d be the first to knock out Aldo, but that came true as well.

Boasting a future as a two-division UFC champion and the most valuable athletic property in combat sports is an emphatic claim. But McGregor doesn’t doubt himself – and at this point, you probably shouldn’t, either.

“If you can see it [in your mind], and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen,” he said. “A lot of times people believe in seeing things, but they keep it to themselves. They don’t put it out there. You truly believe it if you become vocal with it. It actually will become reality.”

In This Article: sports, UFC


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