“When you sign to fight me, it’s a celebration. You ring in the house, you call your wife.” Sweetie, we did it. We’re rich, kid, we’ve made Conor McGregor rich. Get rid of the red panties! “
Those were Conor McGregor’s words in 2015 after she topped his first pay bid against Chad Mendes for the provisional UFC featherweight title. What did he say He will prove prophetic; The Irishman went on to break box office records as not only the biggest attraction in the UFC, but also the biggest draw in all of combat sports.
And it’s not even close.
McGregor Borer 3: Date, time, odds, PPV price, card and location for UFC 264
Six years after McGregor introduced the world to “Red Panty Night,” he entered a rubber match with Dustin Poirier at a crossroads. He started his UFC career at 145 pounds with a 7-0 record and six knockouts — including a stunning 13-second knockout of champion Jose Aldo — but he hasn’t been as strong in the octagon since then.
He bit off more than he could chew when he rose to 170 pounds to take on Nate Diaz, who gave him up in the second round. Of course, he became the first fighter to hold world titles in two weight classes when he defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship in 2016. He somehow managed to capture Floyd Mayweather in the second biggest pay-per-view ever.
But he’s only gone 3-3 in the UFC over the past five years and a series of legal issues nearly cast a shadow over his ability. It’s still a big draw, but there are a lot of questions after his knockout loss to Pourier in January.
And if he finds himself on the losing end of this three-way battle, one must wonder if the McGregor era has come to an end.
But regardless of the outcome in Las Vegas on Saturday, McGregor’s legacy has been cemented. It changed the rules of the game and the fighters admit that they borrowed heavily from the playbook. Whether it’s talking trash or figuring out how to market themselves outside of the UFC, every mixed martial artist wants what McGregor has. Even if they don’t fight McGregor, being in the same event as the Irish produces a residual effect unlike anything they’ve experienced before. Unmatched energy and unparalleled exposure.
Middleweight Drecos de Plessis, who went from attending McGregor’s fight with Donald Cerrone last January as a fan to sharing a fight card with “Mystic Mac”, said. “And now I’m fighting over prelims.”
If you’ve never had a chance to attend a Conor McGregor fight, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen in mixed martial arts. It’s not just a fight. It is an event that holds people’s attention hostage. McGregor’s fight finds media outlets that rarely, if ever, cover the sport it’s asking for access to. You don’t need a passing interest in MMA to realize that Conor McGregor’s fight is a big deal. This is the reason why many fighters want to either fight him or appear at an event that makes the headlines.
“I think the eyes he brings is something different,” said Gilbert Burns, who will face Stephen Thompson in the UFC 264 co-main event. I’ll be focusing a lot of eyes on that card while I’m in the co-main event.”
Consider this: McGregor has been the main event on seven of the 10 best-selling UFC shows of all time. If you include boxing, only two names are consistently in the top 10 PPVs of all time: Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. His value to the company is so undeniable, that even potential competitors hope that MacGregor will emerge victorious against Pourier.
“I want him to win because when he wins it’s good for the sport,” said Elijah Topuria, who will face Ryan Hall in the UFC 264 prelims. “That’s good for me and all the competitors in the UFC. I hope he wins.”
Topuria is not wrong in his assessment. As long as McGregor continues to win, the UFC will remain in the spotlight. Granted, the former two-part world champion finally put MMA promotion in its shadow and became a business itself. Some believe his antics outside of the octagon played an important role in his recent outings. But no one is ready to unwrap their wagon from the McGregor train yet.
Like Mike Tyson before him, the twists are part of the attraction. When he’s not tossing a doll through a bus window or fending off accusations of sexual assault, he’s fighting a war of words with his rival over donating to charity or making big profits from his whiskey sales.
It’s a fast-spreading moment that can start working at any time. These things could eventually catch up to him and be his downfall, but until then, everyone was enjoying the ride.
It’s possible that the UFC knows that McGregor’s time may be running out and a new star will be needed who will blend ability in the octagon with personality outside of it. Many have tried but few possess the combination of skill, strength, and a talent for chattering.
Fighters like 26-year-old Sean O’Malley have pulled pages out of McGregor’s playbook and watched their stocks soar. O’Malley is arguably the closest thing the UFC has to a crossover star. He’s young, boisterous and eccentric, and every fighter wants a piece of the Suga Show.
He will be in a prime position to raise his stock when he opens his UFC 264 PPV card against Kris Moutinho. Although he’s unrated, he’s amassed over 1.5 million followers on Instagram with his viral knockouts, unique personality, and enough flip-flops to entice audiences, for better or worse.
I watched every interview [McGregor has] “He’s done everything and all of his fights a few times,” O’Malley told Sporting News. A lot of people are trying to say I’m trying to be like Connor, but you can have two people with similar personalities. I took bits and pieces to learn from, which is a smart thing to do. He inspired me so much.”
Whether you think McGregor is on the shortlist of great fighters or you think he is the beneficiary of lining up the stars right in his favour, the fact remains that he has made his mark on the sport. Often imitated but never replicated, the legacy of the Mystic Mac has already been set in stone. The only question left is: Can he reclaim past glory inside the Octagon, or have we already seen the best of Conor McGregor?