ByJustin Golightly, writer at
Design wizard. MMA mathematician. Formerly of Middle Easy, Justin Golightly has been featured on Bleacher Report, Uproxx and TMZ.
Justin Golightly

There was a time before the opulence and fire-spitting Lamborghini.

A period when Conor McGregor didn't have a crowned gorilla eating a heart emblazoned upon his chest; these were the days of the Crumlin Boxing Club, working as a plumber in Lucan on the outskirts of Dublin, and watching MMA on television with his girlfriend Dee Devlin.

The world had no idea what was coming. In just a few short years, McGregor would make waves in Europe that would eventually crash on the shores of the United States.

McGregor has now ascended to the peak of MMA. He has become UFC's multi-million dollar man and its biggest star. So just as McGregor approaches and his quest to become the promotion's first two-division champion, we offer this look back at Conor's fights before the UFC.

A Notorious MMA Debut

Far removed from the Louis Vuitton-patterned life he leads now, McGregor is seen here at just 18 years old in baggy, board shorts. While he looks like he's about to compete in a surfing competition, this is McGregor's first amateur MMA fight at Ring of Truth against Kieran Campbell.

This version of McGregor is raw, aggressive, and sloppy. But, even back then everything was still in place. His early movements still frustrate; McGregor knocks Campbell to the ground and does his signature shrug. He won in the first round via technical knockout.

Introduction to the Uppercut

At Chaos Fighting Championship 8, McGregor would look to get back in the win column after a rough submission loss to . Unfortunately, Hugh Brady would have to stand in the way of a McGregor that had a point to prove.

In a vibrant, crimson cage, the young Irishman would dispatch of Brady with bolo punch style uppercuts. The same uppercuts we'd see two years later taking out Marcus Brimage in McGregor's UFC debut.

Two months after his fight with Brady, McGregor would fight a man named Paddy Doherty at Immortal Fighting Championship 4, who found out about him through this very fight.

He would knock Doherty out in an unbelievable four seconds.

“I caught on to who McGregor was eventually, I had seen him fight Hugh Brady at Chaos Fighting Championships,” said Doherty to Severe MMA. “I can remember watching the fight and thinking after it – ‘Holy f-ck, who is this boy?’ He took Hugh apart inside a couple of minutes. I didn’t expect to see that you know, he was very impressive and he looked very dangerous."

Utter Destruction by Elbows

By the time McGregor debuted in , his hype train was already at full speed, and this fight with Steve O'Keefe would dump even more coal in the engine.

McGregor starts his second Cage Warriors fight crouched like an animal, and when the bell rings, McGregor bull rushes O'Keefe with a video-game combo before being held up against the fence. O'Keefe's survival mode would backfire.

It was there that McGregor would get into a position to land nearly 10 devastating elbows, eventually causing O'Keefe to collapse.

Winning the Cage Warriors Featherweight Title

Approaching his first title shot at Cage Warriors FC 47 against Dave Hill, McGregor was in top form. The pre-fight psychological warfare and prophecies were all there. Seeing McGregor butting heads and screaming in hot pink underwear at Hill isn't a far cry from his present day UFC antics.

The fight would be no different.

He talked trash straight from the staredown. This fast-paced title fight featured McGregor's signature pressure, dynamic kicks and even the familiar, sing-song chants. This was a defining moment in his career, McGregor knew it, and he not only felt it, but he also foresaw it.

Dave Hill would tap to a rear naked choke in the second round and McGregor would become the CWFC featherweight champion.

“During the fight [McGregor] started talking again. He was saying: ‘I’ll go all day with you, you look soft, I’ll go five rounds if you need to.’ Then I started wondering if I should say something back," Hill said to The 42. "So you start thinking of how you’re supposed to react and that kind of messes with your head as well. It’s definitely his confidence and that shows in the way he fights. He’s constantly moving forward, pushing you back and inflicting his game on you, so you don’t get a chance to inflict your game on him.”

Cage Warriors Two-Weight Champion

McGregor was supposed to defend his featherweight title, but his opponent pulled out so he took a fight in another weight class. This sounds like current events in the UFC, but surprisingly this took place in Cage Warriors.

On New Year's Eve back in 2012, McGregor would fight Ivan Buchinger for the CWFC lightweight title to try and become a two-weight champion. It would be where the puzzle pieces all fell into place. It was like McGregor was in a completely different league than his opponent. McGregor dominated Buchinger with crisp boxing, confused him with tornado kicks and slept him with a sniper left in the first round—all while talking to him.

After winning eight fights in a row by stoppage, and holding dual-weight titles, the UFC signed McGregor and nothing would ever be the same.

Can McGregor replicate what he did in Cage Warriors at UFC 205?


Latest from our Creators