Exactly a decade ago, an Irish MMA fighter who would later go on to make the mixed martial arts world go crazy made his first appearance in the UFC. In his first fight, Conor McGregor immediately showed his uniqueness and fans could see the birth of a legend.
Ten years ago, Dana White found a gem in Dublin, Ireland
In 2013, the UFC was 20 years old, so it was already an established organization. But President Dana White was looking for new opportunities to dominate the European market.
The organisation had a few tournaments under its belt, mainly in the UK, but the reach was not what the charismatic promoter had envisioned.
So he was looking for a European face to attract new fans from Europe and beyond. Then, when he went to Dublin, Ireland in 2013, he heard about a new MMA star, Conor McGregor, around every corner.
At the time, McGregor was the Cage Warriors champion and had just completed a victorious title defense against Ivan Buchinger. White set up a meeting with the fighter in February of that year and just a few days later, he had a contract on the table.
It was surely White’s best signing ever, as it wasn’t long before the Irish fighter became the biggest star in the sport. And it was mostly thanks to him that MMA’s popularity increased in every corner of the world.
McGregor repaid the trust of the UFC boss in his first fight
He had his first fight just two months later, on April 6, 2013 at a UFC event on FUEL TV:: Mousasi vs Latifi. His original opponent got injured, so he was offered the UFC’s previously undefeated American Marcus Brimage.
Already the weigh-ins had produced a somewhat sharper staredown, with Conor making it clear to his opponent how the fight would go. Upon entering the cage, his movements exuded a confidence and charisma that attracted the attention of sports fans.
The fight itself with Brimage then proved a one-sided affair. From the opening round he used his greater range and great attitude. Quick combinations and effective kicks hit their mark with surgical precision and after just 67 seconds he sent his opponent to the ground.
Only the second Irishman in the organization, he then showed the world not only his fighting skills, but also the way he had been entering the heads of his opponents throughout his career. “I had no plan,” he said when asked by the moderator if he planned to destroy his opponent in the stand-up.
“The guy got caught up in his emotions, and that’s no way to fight. The support of my Irish fans made him a little bit upset,” he said of his opponent. “Dana, 60 grand, ” he said of his knockout bonus.
At the press conference, White was beaming with happiness and even then he began to promote his prize haul. “He’s totally calm, he’s a beast. He really impressed me. Look at him, he’s a well-dressed, good-looking guy and pretty smart,” he said, wringing his hands.
He got the bonus, but the promoter certainly didn’t regret the reward. The star Irishman later earned more than any other fighter in history. In fact, he has been featured eight times in the UFC’s top ten best-selling galas, which just goes to show what a huge impact he has had on the popularity of the sport.
Sources: UFC, YouTube channels – UFC and Larone
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