4 ways in which Conor McGregor has changed the world of MMA for good

McGregor at the promotions of the 'Money Fight'
McGregor at the promotions of the 'Money Fight'

Conor McGregor made his MMA debut at 18 years of age in an amateur fight against Kieran Campbell in Dublin. He won in the first round by TKO, sending a message to the world of MMA. The fighting sport was about to change forever.

From being a plumbing apprentice to becoming the first man in UFC history to hold titles in two weight divisions simultaneously, Conor McGregor has had a fairytale journey.

The 32-year-old is often criticized for his unapologetic behavior and occasional out-of-the-octagon violence. Regardless, there is no denying that he has stamped his name as the most famous fighter on the planet.

Let's take a look at four ways 'The Notorious' Conor McGregor has changed the MMA world for good.

#4 Money fights

Conor McGregor has perfectly molded an image that gets him views. He has given rise to a trend of looking for money fights and record-breaking pay-per-view buys, becoming the poster boy for the UFC in the process.

Let's talk about the Irishman's first shot at the UFC featherweight championship against Jose Aldo in 2015. This could be termed as the exact moment when Conor changed the sport forever.

The way Conor carried himself in the press conferences was what got the public's attention. In one memorable episode, he snatched Aldo's championship belt from across the table and shouted, "You're looking at the king! You're looking at the king!"

The crowd loved it, and Jose Aldo was helpless. Notorious was in the headlines. The PPV buys for the fight blew through the roof, but this was just the start. McGregor would end up being the main reason behind some of the biggest drawing fights in history.

Take a look at the top eight PPV buys in UFC history:

  1. UFC 229: Khabib vs McGregor – 2.4 million
  2. UFC 257: Poirier vs McGregor II – 1.6 million
  3. UFC 202: Diaz vs McGregor II – 1.6 million
  4. UFC 246: McGregor vs Cerrone – 1.35 million
  5. UFC 196: McGregor vs Diaz – 1.3 million
  6. UFC 251: Usman vs Masvidal – 1.3 million
  7. UFC 205: Alvarez vsMcGregor – 1.3 million
  8. UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor – 1.2 million

We haven't even talked about the 'Money Fight' yet. Mayweather vs. McGregor reportedly generated an insane 4.3 million pay-per-view buys, with more than $500 million in total revenue. There was only one fight in sports history that was bigger, and did not include McGregor in it - the Mayweather vs Pacquiao bout.

These PPV buys were never seen before Conor McGregor came into the UFC. In the words of the 'Notorious' himself, he didn't come to take part, he came to take over.

#3 The art of trash talking

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Trash talking before Conor McGregor's era compared to now seems incredibly polite. The Notorious has excelled in the art of trash talking. From saying that he could whoop Jesus Christ's ass to throwing politically incorrect statements and not batting an eye - McGregor has given a new definition to trash talk.

Who doesn't remember: "I say it how I want to say it - The King speaks however he wants", or "The double champ does what the f**k he wants"?

Apart from making the crowd chant "F**k the Mayweathers," he was also caught on tape asking Floyd Mayweather to "Dance for me, boy."

On top of all that, he would get on the mic and go, "I would like to take this chance to apologize… to absolutely nobody!"

Conor McGregor has had such an impact on the new generation of fighters that trash talking now feels like a necessity. Remember when Aljamain Sterling was talking trash to Peter Yan ahead of UFC 259 - just to get overwhelmed later on?

McGregor should probably write a book on psychological warfare post retirement, as he once admitted to actively indulging in it.

#2 Conor McGregor has become bigger than MMA

UFC President Dana White having a conversation with McGregor
UFC President Dana White having a conversation with McGregor

While Conor McGregor has massively increased the global reach of the MMA sport, he has also become bigger than MMA (and UFC) in the process. People who never had a clue about classic fighters like Royce Gracie, Randy Couture, Anderson Silva and GSP know full well who Conor McGregor is.

Take, for instance, the huge following that McGregor has on social media. He has a whopping 39.5 million followers on Instagram, while the UFC has 26.5 million.

Many believe the UFC has attracted eyes from all over the world in recent years mainly because Conor McGregor has been their poster boy. The Irishman is known for living a luxurious life, often drawing comparisons to Tiger Woods.

He drives to fight venues in a Rolls Royce, and cruises on yachts. In September 2020, McGregor was with his family on a vacation to Corsica onboard a $4 million yacht, ahead of a 110-mile charity voyage which was attended by personalities like Princess Charlene of Monaco.

From his consistently record-breaking PPV figures to his bank account and his photo finishes, McGregor has truly changed the face of the sport.

#1 The double-champ culture

McGregor becomes the first ever reigning two division champ in UFC
McGregor becomes the first ever reigning two division champ in UFC

When Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in 2015, winning the UFC featherweight title, he set a record for the fastest-ever finish to a UFC title fight.

After defeating Eddie Alvarez for the UFC lightweight title the following year, he became the first ever UFC fighter to simultaneously hold championship belts in two weight divisions. Previously thought impossible, this was the first instance in UFC history:

After scripting history, McGregor said, 'They’re not on my level. You gotta have some attributes. If you’re not an equal to me, I’m gonna rip your head off. Eddie’s a warrior, but he shouldn’t have been in here with me.'

Other UFC fighters have since followed suit, including Daniel Cormier, Henry Cejudo and Amanda Nunes. We recently saw Israel Adesanya unsuccessfully attempt a two-division takeover at UFC 259 as well.

That night in 2016, Conor McGregor set off a chain-reaction that would change the sport forever - he created a double-champ culture.

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Edited by John Cunningham
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