ByMatt Juul, writer at
MMA and Entertainment Writer
Matt Juul

Before the trash talk, PPV interviews, and shiny gold belts, was just a kid from Dublin with a crazy dream of becoming a champion.

While he's accomplished that goal twice over now, and is currently courting a mega money match-up with the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr., life wasn't always so luxurious for the brash Irish superstar. So how exactly did McGregor go from being a plumber to one of the most recognizable names in sports today?

Here's a short history of where Conor McGregor came from and how he transformed into the UFC's biggest star.

Growing Up in Dublin

Photo by Adam Hunger / USA Today Sports
Photo by Adam Hunger / USA Today Sports

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on July 14, 1988, Conor Anthony McGregor came out of his mother Margaret's womb "with his fists clenched," according to his father Tony.

As a quiet kid from a hardworking Irish family, McGregor always had a fighter's spirit in him, but was more interested in kicking soccer balls instead of people as a kid. A die hard Manchester United fan in his early years, McGregor would frequently play with local clubs, even when his MMA career started to take off.

Eventually, McGregor found the world of boxing at the age of 12, training under the acclaimed Olympian Phil Sutcliffe at the Crumlin Boxing Club. Following in his grandfather's footsteps, McGregor proved to be a skilled boxer, honing his vicious left hand in the crucible of combat. The ring wasn't enough for him, though, so he branched out into kickboxing and the grappling arts prior to his first foray into the cage.

At the age of 17, McGregor moved with his family from the suburb of Crumlin to the West Dublin neighborhood of Lucan. In order to make ends meet, McGregor started a plumbing apprenticeship, a job that's definitely a far cry from the seven figure paychecks that he's making these days. Despite the move, "The Notorious" would still take a bus back to his old stomping grounds just so he could get some training in.

When I was 17, after the family had moved out to Lucan, I would get a bus back into town every day and then a second bus out to Crumlin. In my gear-bag were boxing gloves, head-gear, a jockstrap, football boots, my shin pads. I’d spend two hours at Crumlin Boxing Club and then go right next door to Crumlin Football Club and play for two more hours. I always enjoyed being active. Movement distracted me from everyday life.

After 18 months of early mornings, McGregor decided it was time quit his life as a plumber so he could go all in on MMA, a move that was inspired by sparring sessions with UFC veteran Tom Egan in 2006. McGregor may have found his calling, but the early years weren't always so great for the Irish champion.

Early Setbacks

Photo by Tim Heitman / USA Today Sports
Photo by Tim Heitman / USA Today Sports

At the age of 18, McGregor entered the cage for the first time, winning his amateur debut via a first round TKO against Ciaran Campbell. The bout impressed the Irish Ring of Truth promotion, which immediately signed McGregor to a pro contract.

Ahead of his professional debut in 2008, the Irish star started training with his pal John Kavanagh at the now famed Straight Blast Gym. The change in camps turned out to be a good move for McGregor, who won his first two fights with back-to-back TKOs.

Following a pair of lightweight victories, McGregor decided to move down to featherweight for his third match-up, a Cage of Truth bout against Artemij Sitenkov in Dublin. McGregor would suffer his first setback during the fight, tapping out to a kneebar just over a minute into round one.

Despite bouncing back from the loss with a pair of first round TKO victories, McGregor hit another snag in 2010, losing to eventual UFC fighter Joseph Duffy at Cage Warriors FC 39. Once again showing a susceptibility to submissions, McGregor was forced to tap out 38 seconds into the lightweight bout due to an arm-triangle choke.

The defeat clearly lit a fire under McGregor, who went on a tear and wouldn't taste defeat again until well into his UFC career.

Knocking on the UFC's Door

Photo by Joshua Dahl / USA Today Sports
Photo by Joshua Dahl / USA Today Sports

Following his second pro loss, McGregor went back to the drawing board and came back a vicious competitor, finishing all who challenged him. Prior to earning his first Cage Warriors title shot, McGregor won six straight fights, all via knockout or TKO.

Having so many finishes under his belt, including a 4-second KO in 2011, a chance for a belt was inevitable for the then rising contender. McGregor would get that shot in 2012, facing Dave Hill at Cage Warriors FC 47 for the featherweight belt. Proving that he's more than just a KO artist, McGregor earned his first submission victory against Hill, who tapped out to a rear naked choke in round two.

Initially set to defend his 145 lb. belt, McGregor would get the opportunity to add a second strap to his collection at Cage Warriors FC 51. Going back to his striking ways, McGregor would end Ivan Buchinger's night with a first round KO, earning the coveted lightweight title in the process.

The pair of championship wins made it impossible for the MMA world at large to ignore the Irish prospect, who'd finally get his shot inside the Octagon in 2013 against Marcus Brimage. The rest, as they say, is history.


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