Conor McGregor: The legendary story of UFC's Irish King

McGregor might seem like a man swimming in cash at the moment, but like every other great success story, that was not always the case.

Conor McGregor (L) in a file photo. (Image credit: Twitter)
By Nilavro Ghosh | May 21, 2021 | 5 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor was recently crowned the highest-earning athlete of 2020 by Forbes magazine. He was ahead of other behemoths in the world of sports. The list included Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and LeBron James, to name a few. The Irishman, however,  was head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the pack. He earned approximately USD 180 million in 2020. That is quite a ways ahead of second-placed Messi with USD 130 million. The UFC superstar has always had people who could not quite get behind him thanks to his Zlatan-esque mentality and self-confidence. However, much like the Swedish football legend, McGregor has always backed up his words in the octagon.


McGregor might seem like a man swimming in cash at the moment, but like every other great success story, that was not the case when he was a kid. Conor’s parents, Tony and Mags McGregor were part of the working class. It was in 1988 when they had Conor, seven years after their first child, Erin McGregor. At the time, conditions and pay for the working class in Ireland were not ideal. The couple had to scrape money together to afford a house in Crumlin, a Dublin suburb. They could not afford a place of their own in the neighborhood where they grew up.

Surprisingly enough, Conor’s first sporting love was not what he does now professionally, or any combat sport. It was the most popular sport in the world, football. As is evident from his interviews and social media posts, he is an ardent Manchester United fan. McGregor had even played for a local club. Today, he claims that he was more focused on the beautiful game back then. What might have turned his mind to combat sports is a boxing gym situated next to the football club. A young Conor would occasionally pop in and witness the ins and outs of boxing.

By the time he was 15, Conor had to move out of Crumlin to settle in Lucan which is situated on the outskirts of Dublin. It was quite a difficult and life-altering decision for Conor as he was separated from his childhood friends. “It’s difficult for a teenage boy to be taken away from the only thing he knew,” Tony, Conor’s father, said. “It was a different area, different friends.”


However, it was this change, Conor believes, that helped him focus on what he wanted to do in the future. What he has done for so many years. What he is better at than almost everyone in the history of the sport. “In the long run, it ended up working out better for my career, because I ended up being isolated. I ended up alone with my thoughts a lot more. I feel being alone with your thoughts is a good thing. It allows you to figure things out for yourself. And that’s what happened for me in Lucan,” he said.

In addition to boxing, Conor started to learn other forms of combat. He learned kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. As he grew older, he got better and better at his craft. However, as is the situation in every working-class household, there came a time when Conor either had to further his education or start working jobs to contribute to the family.

His first full-time job was that of a plumber. His mother had found the job and for a fair period of time, it was a source of steady income for a comfortable living. Understandably, Conor hated it from the get-go. He had revealed that he disliked the physical conditions of the veteran workers. The effects of years of hard manual labour were not something the Irishman was intent on experiencing. After working some time as a plumber, he decided to quit and focus entirely on his training. The rest, as they say, is history.


McGregor started his MMA career in 2008. If one analyzes the Irishman’s early fights, his ruthless nature in the octagon and his sheer talent coupled with years of hard training can be seen. McGregor was always a natural in the sport. His record in his first six matches was 4-2, which is pretty impressive for an up-and-comer.

And then the onslaught began. In his seventh match, he knocked out Hugh Brady in under two minutes. In his eighth, he knocked out his opponent in 16 seconds. A four-second knockout win followed in his next match. The ragged Irish brawler was quickly making a name for himself in the international circuit. McGregor’s Irish fans believed that he was the best featherweight in the world even before Dana White and UFC came calling.

April 2013 saw the Irishman’s debut in the UFC in Stockholm. His first match was against Marcus Brimage. Just like his previous matches, McGregor ended the fight with a knockout victory, in just over a minute. McGregor kept growing and growing. He beat Max Holloway by decision, and then the UFC announced an event in Dublin. McGregor, in just his third UFC bout, headlined the card and knocked out Diego Brandao in the first round. He then delivered a promo to his Irish fans, and it is still considered as one of the greatest in the history of the company.


The Irishman has captured a vast number of awards over the course of his career and is rightfully considered as one of, if not the greatest, featherweights in UFC history. He is only the third person to be a Multi-divisional Champion in the company’s history and has also won the most consecutive performance of the night awards with five.

The Irishman has made a career out of delivering one world-class display after another and has also been one of the most popular athletes, across all sports, in the world. Several non-UFC watchers took an affinity to the sport just to see the Irishman do what he does best, and today, he is a hero and an example to strive towards to his millions of Irish fans.