When Conor McGregor Ruled The World
If there was anyone that was going to do it first, it was Conor McGregor. Aged 28, he became the very first MMA fighter to simultaneously hold titles in two different UFC weight classes after knocking out Eddie Alvarez to be crowned the UFC lightweight champion. He held aloft his two belts in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd in a moment etched in sporting history. McGregor accomplished something critics and fans alike thought to be impossible.
'The Notorious' made light work of Alvarez, flooring him four times before securing the stoppage in the second round. A truly remarkable showing even by McGregor's ultra-high standards.
But fast forward three years and the Irishman hasn't won a fight since that night in New York.
After beating Alvarez, McGregor flexed his star power by luring Floyd Mayweather out of retirement to 'The Money Fight'. He lost via a 10th-round TKO but earned himself a reported $80 million. But doing so, McGregor allowed his competition to improve while he focused on a single martial art. That was evident during his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov. He returned to the famed Octagon almost two years after his last UFC fight and succumbed to the Russian's superior grappling skill set, forcing McGregor to tap in the fourth round.
McGregor looked vulnerable and never looked more human inside the cage. His air of invincibility has been shattered. A far cry from his showing against Alvarez.
McGregor still hasn't competed since that defeat to Nurmagomedov, but he has announced his comeback. During a press conference in Moscow, he laid out his plans for 2020 which includes a comeback fight on January 18.
He called for a fight with a whole list of opponents including Max Holloway who fought him back in 2013. Though the Hawaiian's not interested in running it back with McGregor until he gets his focus back while citing the Dublin fighter's UFC 205 heroics.
"When Conor beat Aldo in December 2015 and when he beat Eddie in November 2016, for those 12 months, he ruled the world," he told Ariel Helwani.
"The world. Not just the UFC, the world. And the one thing I can remember and take away from that time was his focus. He was so focused. He decided what he wanted, and he said stuff, he pointed at this guy, he reached for the stars, he reached for the moon, and he made it happen. Magical.
"Listening to him now, I don't see that same focus. If you're going after everything, you're not focused on anything. He called out like 20 guys in that interview."
McGregor doesn't call the shots anymore. He isn't the "man" anymore. A few years ago, he was the unquestioned king of the promotion. He was the sport's biggest star and got away with things with the UFC that no other could have. From not defending his titles to convincing the UFC to co-promote a boxing event. That's not the case anymore.
McGregor's now seeking redemption for his career spiral when he returns to action and while UFC 205 is a distant memory, it's a reminder that he's capable of silencing his doubters and doing the unthinkable.