Conor “The Notorious” McGregor, if you are unfamiliar with him, is an absolute beast. He is an Irish mixed martial artist who competes for Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he is the reigning champion of the misleadingly titled featherweight division.
His heritage and demeanor often draws comparisons to an angry leprechaun, though we can’t picture the Lucky Charms guy dropping Jose Aldo in thirteen seconds, even at his surliest.
He has a 15-fight winning streak, could possibly star with Vin Diesel in the new ‘xXx’ film (yep, they apparently do still make those), and seems to have no reservations belting early 90’s pop ballads. The guy is on top of the world. Let’s look at what helped get him there.
1) He’s Ridiculously Confident
We’re using the word “confident” here, though “psychic” may fit just as well. In terms of clairvoyance, McGregor’s got a better track record than Nostradamus, except McGregor’s abilities derive from high levels of confidence rather than being a downright fraud.
His confidence in predicting exactly how his fights will transpire is enough to make you want him picking your Powerball numbers.
Not only does McGregor tell you he’s going to win, he’ll straight up tell you which round and how it will happen. In the days leading up to his fight with Chad Mendes, McGregor told UFC owner Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta he would bet them $3 million that he would knock Mendes out in the second round. And with ten seconds remaining in round 2, that’s exactly what he did.
We mentioned earlier McGregor knocking out Jose Aldo in thirteen seconds, which, incidentally, is the fastest knockout in a UFC title fight in history. Did we mention that, prior to the match, he told anyone within earshot that he’d knock Aldo out in the first round?
Following the match, he told reporters “I said his right hand would get him into trouble. I said he’d overload on his right hand, and that’s what happened.” Not only is that true, it’s basically the only thing that happened in the match. Well, that and Aldo getting a really close look at the Metro PCS logo on the canvas.
McGregor’s dead-on predictions are so frequent he has said we ought to call him “Mystic Mac”. And we may not have a choice if he gets a shot at fulfilling perhaps his boldest prophesy. He’s so confident in his fighting abilities, he believes he can take out undefeated professional boxer and well-known enemy of literacy Floyd Mayweather.
McGregor told Sports Illustrated, “In a real fight, I would dismantle him in seconds.” Mayweather has yet to comment, presumably because that sentence contains two words with multiple syllables.
McGregor credits much of his confidence to The Secret, a 2006 book written by Rhonda Byrne that was referred to him by his sister. The book focuses on the laws of attraction and the power of positive thinking. Whether his sister meant for McGregor to use the book as a means to make grown men take insta-naps in front of thousands of screaming fans using his knuckles, we may never know.
2) He Thinks Outside the Box Octagon
You would think that, to some degree, training to compete in the UFC would be pretty straightforward, at least in theory: maximize stamina, become versed in multiple fighting techniques, and try to balance your time between getting tattoos and learning to guard. Every fighter has their own particular methods, but perhaps none are as unique as those Conor McGregor employs.
In the week leading up to his fight with Jose Aldo, McGregor set aside the heavy cardio and high-intensity stuff and spent a week with the world’s foremost authority on movement training, Ido Portal.
What is movement training? To the untrained eye it looks like some form of interpretive dance mixed with some very light sparring, but there’s a lot more to it than that. It disregards weights in favor of utilizing the body (sound familiar?), and it’s been hugely beneficial for him.
Regarding the week with McGregor, Portal said that their focus was on, among other things, “staying soft” and “smiling”. Admittedly, on the list of things we would recommend you focus on before headlining a UFC Pay-Per-View, staying soft and smiling would be near the bottom of the list, next to “keep those eyes shut when defending” and “eat all the mac and cheese”. But part of what makes McGregor great is his willingness to search for ways to get better in ways others do not.
This is also showcased in his unorthodox fighting style. McGregor does a lot of things in the octagon that most conventional trainers would find, well, unconventional.
He’s known to throw an awkward looking kick that almost never lands, but keeps opponents wondering exactly what this crazy Irish guy is going to do next.
But the most intriguing aspect of his style is how relaxed he looks. While other fighters exert energy bobbing, weaving and throwing jabs that have no chance of hitting anyone except a guardian angel getting too close to the show, McGregor looks positively placid during much of his fights.
He stands straight up instead of placing a majority of weight on his front foot. His arms are relaxed and often nowhere near his head, typically a big no-no for fighters who like to leave the octagon with their face the same general shape it was when they entered.
He can get away with this because his lightning-fast kicks keep opponents at bay, allowing him enough time to get his hands up for strike defense. Again, most fighters would never do this. But McGregor isn’t most fighters.
3) He Has Insane Mental Toughness
Trash talk is an expected part of any sport (and we mean any). But not everyone can pull it off. You have have that confidence about you in order to lend credibility to what you’re saying, and that comes from being mentally tough. As Notorious himself puts it, “My mind is absolutely bullet-proof, solid as a rock. I am number one.”
McGregor, through this toughness, has completely mastered the art of psychological warfare to a level comparable to The Undertaker. Seriously, watch this video of McGregor tormenting Aldo in the weeks leading up to their fight and tell us it doesn’t look like a Wrestlemania promo.
The difference is, in pro wrestling the hard-working guy usually gives the cocky loudmouth his comeuppance when they finally meet in the ring. In Jose Aldo’s case, he got the business end of a record-breaking knockout and probably a lasting phobia of anything as remotely Irish as a Shamrock Shake.
4) He Has a No-Nonsense Diet
Of course, all that knocking folks out and causing mental anguish can really work up an appetite, and Conor McGregor needs sustenance just like any other possible psychopath. McGregor doesn’t follow a strict regimen of the same meal every day, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take nutrition very seriously.
“I just try to eat clean,” he says, and it starts from the minute he gets up. “I have my water first because you do not want to drink coffee first thing in the morning. You have some water first, make sure you get water.”
Prior to the Aldo bout, McGregor’s trainer, John Kavanagh, gave us a peek inside his fridge, and it wasn’t exactly storing last night’s pizza box.
“That’s what a fridge looks like for a bunch of smart primates,” Kavanagh tweeted. “Salmon, chicken, steak, fruit and veg. That’s it. If you think we’ve bread in this house then you’ve not been paying attention.”
McGregor admits he has a sweet tooth for coffee and cakes. “But the majority,” he says, “I’ll eat good-quality meats, good-quality greens, good-quality carbohydrates like sweet potato and butternut squash, and that is it.” And he never eats take-out.
So if anyone reading this has aspirations of climbing into the octagon themselves one day, your first opponent is that little voice in your belly telling you that you’ve earned that bacon double cheeseburger. A fighter needs every bit of his body in peak condition, and McGregor’s understanding of this is a big part of why he’s estimated to be the UFC’s first $100 millionaire. That’ll buy a lot of butternut squash.
5) He Doesn’t Shy Away From a Challenge
You don’t become one of the most respectable champions of the day by skirting difficult challenges and taking the easy road in the name of keeping a clean record (re: the guy still on paragraph two of this article).
Since entering into the spotlight, McGregor seems keen to take on all comers. What else would you call filming a semi-serious fight with a guy commonly referred to as “The Mountain”?
True, there weren’t any real punches being thrown, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone willing to even playfully grapple with a guy that can throw a 33 pound keg higher than most people can throw a six-pack .
McGregor could have easily come off looking the worse, but he stood face-to-midsection with 6’9″ Hafþór Björnsson and got a lot of props for his fortitude, even with Björnsson getting McGregor in a couple bear hugs that could easily remedy that pesky “having a working spine” problem of his.
Of course, with this kind of take-on-the-world attitude, you are bound to eventually come against someone that will get the better of you. Who’d have thought it would come in the form of a 64-year-old fellow Irishman issuing a muscle-up contest via YouTube?
Willy O’Toole, avid mixed martial arts fan and guy who was 37 when McGregor was born, challenged the UFC superstar by filming himself executing seven muscle-ups. Shortly thereafter, McGregor posted a response of him doing six muscle-ups with much less fluidity than O’Toole.
But Notorious, in a departure from other superstars’ responses to being bested by amateurs, thanked O’Toole, complimented his technique and called him an inspiration. It’s probably a safe bet McGregor knew his muscle-ups wouldn’t be as technically sound as O’Toole’s before he even hit the record button, but this is the never-back-down mindset that has helped put McGregor in a class all his own. A class worthy of a UFC champion with a world of opportunity ahead of him.
But that world has some company. In the short time since his knockout of Aldo, McGregor has been called out by two fighters in the UFC lightweight division, the division into which McGregor has expressed interest in moving. One of those fighters, current lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, said following his championship victory December 19, “Conor McGregor said he wants to come to my division, and I think it wouldn’t be a smart decision. But if he wants to come, I’d be happy to welcome him.”
Much like searching McGregor’s house for bread, if you think he’s going to shy away from his next challenger–whomever it may be–you’ve not been paying attention.