After a two-year absence spent looking at boats, pretending to box, and destroying a bus with a metal barricade, Irish puncher Conor McGregor’s return to the UFC octagon is finally nigh. On Oct. 6 in Las Vegas, McGregor will meet terrifying Russian pressure wrestler Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight championship belt. By any metric, the garish spectacle will be one of the biggest events in UFC history, and in all likelihood, it will shatter every gate and PPV record on the books. That’s because Conor McGregor is a global superstar in a way no other MMA fighter has ever been, and his legions of adoring fans and, um, confident persona ensure that whenever he fights, he is the show.
And so, to get you ready for the big fight, we’ve rewatched every MMA bout Conor McGregor has ever fought in, stretching back from his days on the regional scene, through his march to the featherweight title, to whatever this stage of his career is. We have compiled a list of the five most essential, greatest, and most illustrative fights of McGregor’s career. Everything you need to know about Conor McGregor, you can learn from these five fights. So, without further ado ...
5. March 5, 2016 — UFC 196: Nate Diaz submits Conor McGregor by rear naked choke in Round 2
Love him or hate him, Conor McGregor is the undisputed pay-per-view god, and UFC 196 is the promotion’s second-best selling card ever. McGregor also headlined the best seller, as well as the third-best, and the fifth. Any way you slice it, McGregor–Diaz 1 was a historic fight. It was McGregor’s first-ever loss in the UFC, as well as the only one of his UFC bouts to end in a submission. Fans might expect this one higher up on the list, but McGregor’s simply been in so many incredible fights that it’s inevitable that a classic banger or two will get pushed down.
4. March 5, 2016 — UFC 196: Nate Diaz submits Conor McGregor by rear naked choke in Round 2
McGregor’s meeting with Nate Diaz at UFC 196 was hotly anticipated, and the first round of that fight was a fascinating one. The two southpaws each established their gameplans early, and tinkered with them in interesting little ways as they began to get data on their opponent. McGregor came out swinging early, looking to find the best way to overcome Diaz’s reach advantage to land that big left hand. Diaz worked the jab and tried to make McGregor pay every time he wanted to get close.
The Irishman worked in a healthy variety of leg kicks, and Diaz responded with a few probing kicks of his own, though McGregor got the better of this frame and even opened up a big cut above Diaz’s right eye. The half takedown at Diaz got at the end of the round was an ominous portent of things to come for McGregor, but Conor easily won this round.
3. March 5, 2016 — UFC 196: Nate Diaz submits Conor McGregor by rear naked choke in Round 2
Conor McGregor was initially supposed to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight title at UFC 196, but after Dos Anjos pulled out with a leg injury, McGregor suddenly couldn’t find an opponent. Jose Aldo wasn’t ready, Frankie Edgar was also hurt, and for a minute there, it seemed like the main event was possibly in jeopardy. In stepped Nate Diaz, younger brother of Nick, for a welterweight bout on two weeks notice.
McGregor had never fought at welterweight before, but he was going up against a +300 underdog who hadn’t had a full camp, so he had every reason to feel confident. You can see this in the trash talk in the run-up to the fight. The following “I don’t give a fuck!”, “I don’t give a fuck!” press conference is an all-time classic.
As is this dadaist side-by-side interview for a financial news show.
The two dudes were perfect foils for each other, since Diaz is one of the only fighters whose head McGregor has not been able to get into. When Diaz says he doesn’t give a fuck, I really believe him, and you could tell McGregor expected him to crack at some point. When they eventually met in the octagon on March 5, 2016, it was obvious they were never going to touch gloves, but rather spend the entire fight barking at each other while hitting each other.
2. March 5, 2016 — UFC 196: Nate Diaz submits Conor McGregor by rear naked choke in Round 2
On March 5, 2016, at UFC 196, Conor McGregor fought Nate Diaz, in one of the biggest PPV successes in UFC history. He was supposed to win—Diaz was on really short notice, after all—but McGregor was submitted late in the second round. Intriguingly, McGregor was arguably winning the fight until he tapped out on a rear naked choke. He even infamously (sort of) took Diaz down out of what looked like pure exhaustion, and he was quickly outgrappled and submitted.
After a confident first three minutes of the second round for McGregor, Diaz finally tagged McGregor with a big jab. The fight then lurched into that uneasy territory where both men were beat up and exhausted. Diaz seemed more suited to a brawl like that, and with about a minute left in the second round, McGregor half-attacked and half-fell towards Diaz. McGregor was too tired to do anything besides get his face punched and then tap out seconds after Diaz secured the choke. It was a stunning upset for Stockton’s hometown hero.
1. March 5, 2016 — UFC 196: Nate Diaz submits Conor McGregor by rear naked choke in Round 2