Many people put down the foundation of the UFC in the early years, people like Royce Gracie, Chuck Lidell, Georges St-Pierre, and others. However, the game changed forever on April 6, 2013, when a young Conor McGregor entered the promotion. Although this story starts before that.
Cage Warriors is one of the biggest mixed martial arts promotions in Europe. The promotion has given the UFC many stars over the years including Michael Bisping, Dan Hardy, and most recently Nathaniel Wood. Little did the company know, they would host the biggest star in MMA history. Conor McGregor debuted for the promotion in 2010 and it would catapult him to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He would win both the featherweight and lightweight championships and hold them simultaneously, the first to do so.
During McGregor’s time with the promotion, he would make a name for himself, one that would catch the attention of UFC President Dana White. This would lead to McGregor’s promotional debut on April 6, 2013. The company would never be the same.
It was evident from his first fight that McGregor was destined for success in the promotion. Following his first-round knockout against Marcus Brimage, McGregor would take the mic and exclaim “Dana, 60g’s baby!”
From that night on McGregor would begin his climb to superstardom. Two years following his debut he would fight Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight championship. Of course, he would win that fight and set up one of the biggest fights in UFC history, against Jose Aldo. In a lot of people’s minds, this was the end of the hype train. McGregor was meeting the arguable greatest featherweight of all time. In one of the most shocking upsets in the company’s history, McGregor would win by knockout only 13 seconds in. This solidified his spot in the company and he would go on to have record-breaking fights.
This brings us back to the title of this article, how did Conor McGregor help build the UFC? By the time McGregor debuted in the UFC, the company was already doing well. UFC was in the middle of a seven-year deal with Fox and was stacked with talent. As mentioned, McGregor did not build the company from the ground up. However, he took the company he entered and brought it to the next level.
His ability to entertain in and out of the Octagon drew in thousands of new eyes. Four of the five biggest buy rates in UFC history include Conor McGregor in the main event. He holds the record for the highest pay-per-view buys with a non-title main event when he faced off with Nate Diaz for the second time. You cannot deny the financial success he has been for the UFC.
However, you can not only mention his financial success, but his accomplishments in the Octagon are also just as important.
McGregor is one of the most accomplished fighters in UFC history. Seven Performance of the Night bonuses, the fastest title fight victory in UFC history, the first simultaneous dual-weight UFC champion, and the list goes on.
Perhaps the most valuable accomplishment in the eyes of the UFC is McGregor is the first Irish born UFC Champion. The Irish fans have been one of the best fan bases in the company since the rise of Ireland’s favorite son. McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh has spoken extensively about the growth of the sport in Ireland.
Much like Georges St-Pierre brought the Canadian market with him, McGregor brought the Irish. Whenever a fighter opens up an entire market, you can not deny that he helped build the Ultimate Fighting Championship.