On April 6, 2013, a super-confident Irishman made his UFC debut and announced his arrival to the sporting world as the next big global superstar. His name? Conor McGregor.
McGregor had captured the featherweight and lightweight titles in European promotion Cage Warriors, leading to a groundswell of support in his native Ireland.
And, when UFC president Dana White arrived in Dublin for a talk at Kings College, he was inundated by fans imploring him to sign the ebullient Irishman. It led him to check out McGregor’s recent performances and, eventually, he inked the Dubliner to a multi-fight contract.
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McGregor’s first assignment came at UFC Fight Night in Stockholm against former graduate from The Ultimate Fighter, Marcus Brimage. “The Bama Beast” was building a reputation as something of a prospect killer, after handing the highly-rated Jimy Hettes his first loss inside the octagon in his previous fight, and he planned on repeating the trick against the much-hyped McGregor.
But this particular prospect wouldn’t be denied, as McGregor stepped into the octagon for his UFC debut looking like a man who had done it countless times before.
Looking somewhat different to the heavily tattooed, strutting character we are used to seeing today, a younger, yet still confident, McGregor started out strongly and soon found his mark as he rocked, dropped, then finished Brimage in clinical fashion in just 68 seconds.
In his octagon interview after the fight, McGregor said: “I didn’t really have a gameplan. Just wherever it went. You can’t let emotions get in the way. I think Marcus got a little bit emotional with the Irish support getting on his back. It means nothing. I just come in and let the fight happen naturally. Whatever happens, happens. Wherever the fight takes place, that’s where it takes place. I don’t plan anything.”
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He also explained that he had treated the whole experience like a game, almost as if he was a professional wrestler.
“This is the first time I’ve experienced something like this. It’s like the WWE to me, it’s all just a little game. I’m just playing a little game. “
That “game” has certainly worked well for him throughout his career as, since that fight, he has grown to become the biggest name in combat sport and one of the most recognizable sports stars on the planet.