Conor McGregor (18-2) was a title holder in two divisions for Cage Warriors Fighting Championships before he signed with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 2013. Since then, he's gone on to win six straight contests, make headline after headline and become one of the most popular fighters in the sport.
The Dublin, Ireland, native has -- at least to date -- talked the talk, and walked the walk.
Indeed, McGregor has defeated all-comers since joining the promotion, knocking out five of them. His stock rocketed into orbit after his most recent victory at UFC 189 when he knocked out Chad Mendes -- who filled in for the injured Jose Aldo -- to win the interim Featherweight title.
The long-awaited match up with the current UFC Featherweight champion, Aldo, takes place at UFC 194 in about 10 days (Sat., Dec. 12, 2015). The interim 145-pound champion was at it again on today's UFC 194 conference call, predicting he would have his way with Aldo and move on to the Lightweight division next.
"I will KO Jose Aldo and I will face the winner of the lightweight belt, which takes place a week out (from UFC 194). Then I will fight for that," McGregor said. "So, within the next few fights, I will be a two-weight world champion."
McGregor and Aldo have built up quite a storyline for this bout after the pair went on a world tour to promote their first fight, which never materialized at UFC 189. McGregor has said over and over since he's entered the promotion that it's only a matter of time until he dethrones the Brazilian champion, dogging the longest-reigning UFC champion for not fighting him earlier this year.
When speaking about Aldo's injury on today's conference call, McGregor revealed he told "Scarface" that if he showed up for the fight, he would make concessions for his injured rib.
"He bruised his rib and pulled out of the fight and I still told him when he bruised his rib, I said, 'Show up and I won’t target your body.’ I said that to him. I said, ‘If you show up here, I won’t hit you once in the body. I’ll hit you clean in the face.’ And he still didn’t show up."
McGregor had an injury of his own -- a knee injury that he said recently was an 80 percent tear in his ACL. He said Aldo and his camp knew about his knee and said, "they celebrated it and planned to attack it." That didn't worry him, though, because his belief in his abilities and mental toughness are a huge part of his success and undoubtedly give him an edge against his opponents.
He wasn't going to back out against Aldo, so his mindset didn't change when he had to face Mendes, either.
"I’m an animal," he said. "I’ll tell you why: Because I’m a beast. Nothing can break me. Nothing can stop this train from taking over this game.
"I showed up because nothing can break me," he said moments later. "There is no amount of adversity I cannot conquer. And that is it. My mind is strong. Stronger than anything. And that’s it. I went in with complete belief that my shots would land. I have so many shots in my book that although I had to put some shots in my back pocket because my movement was limited, I could pull out a couple more out of my other pocket because that’s how many damn shots I have in my book. I could write a trilogy on that book and skill."
Many felt Mendes would be the toughest test of his career. And early on that proved to be the case as Mendes was dominating with wrestling and grappling. But, McGregor found a way to his feet to knockout "Money."
"I could've walked and I'll tell you what, 100 percent of the roster would've walked," said McGregor, on fighting Mendes despite his injured knee. "That was supposedly my Kryptonite -- the American wrestler. 'Oh shit, they've been keeping the cash cow away from the American wrestler. They don't want to put him against the American wrestler. He's the cash cow. They want to save him.' They gave me him on three-weeks notice. Three-weeks notice and I still took it. I came through. I showed up. People put in a lot to come to the event, to create the event ... and I'm extremely grateful for that. I've showed it before. Jose pulled out with a bruise and not even an apology to the fans."
With McGregor already making plans after Aldo -- since he's predicting a knockout victory -- he was asked about a rematch should he prevail against "Scarface" next Saturday.
"Let's see how the contest plays out. If he can give me a war and he can earn a rematch, then we can do a rematch," he said. "I just don't see him answering the bell for the second round. I can't see his face or his body at the beginning of the second round. I see him KO'd inside one. When you KO a guy inside one there is no need for a rematch. So, if he can bring a war and we can do this and trade for five rounds or whatever than maybe I'll consider a rematch. But, I feel he won get off the stool and answer the bell for the second round. So, I'm looking to emulate what I achieved in my previous promotion and collect two belts in two different weight divisions, hold them consecutively, defend them consecutively and carry on."
If McGregor can follow through with the first half his prediction, he might not have to wait very long to pursue the second, as Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos defends his 155-pound belt against Donald Cerrone at UFC on FOX 17 just one week later (Sat., Dec. 19, 2015).
Much, much easier said than done.