Lessons from Conor McGregor’s ‘Notorious’

 

In a documentary chronicling his rise to world champion, Conor McGregor’s ‘Notorious’, offers a look into the mind of a champion.

The Heart of a Champion

The documentary begins with footage of Conor at the age of 17 stating his goal to be ‘world champion of the UFC, to have more money than I know what to do with, and have a great life for my kids and my grandkids.’ His dream was to be #1.

From there, the documentary cuts to 2012 when Conor had just quit his job in Ireland to pursue his dream of fighting in the UFC full-time. At this point in his career, Conor couldn’t even afford equipment to train. However, already he was starting to make a big name for himself. His plan was to make a lot of noise from outside the UFC so he would get the call-up. At this point Conor says he already saw himself as a champion. This was his attitude since day one. Soon the UFC took notice too and he was called to fight in America.

A Champion From the Beginning

After his first UFC fight and win, Conor couldn’t believe how much his $60K bonus would buy. He loved having money. And the cocky, hot-shot attitude that came with it suited him well. Conor was only 1-0, but wore the record like he was already world champ.

The Fight of a Lifetime

Conor continued to rack up a string of undefeated wins and his legend grew. Then in 2015, Conor got the fight he always wanted: he would fight Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight Title. Aldo was undefeated for the past ten years in UFC. Despite this however, Conor’s confidence was sky-high. He claimed Aldo wouldn’t get through a single round. And when watching a promotion for the fight, Conor was delighted when the announcer stated, ‘If McGregor does what he says he’s going to do to Aldo, it will be hard not to call him pound-for-pound the best in the world.’

A Huge Setback

One month before the fight, Conor sustained a serious knee injury, he had tore 80% of his ACL in training. Typically, a person with an injury like that should not be able to walk. But there was Conor, continuing to train. In the meantime, he was also being inundated with requests for autographs sessions, photo shoots, commercials, and numerous other distractions. Miraculously though, Conor’s knee was able to make a recovery in less than a month.

A Source of Support

From the beginning Conor always knew he’d be the best in the world. And his girlfriend always believed in him too. In the documentary she states, “We live in this positive mindset. He would always say, ‘I believe in every breath I take, I’m the best’ and I always believed it.’ It was this support that Conor seems to have drawn on as one a source of strength as well.

His Opponent’s Weakness

Then, two weeks before the fight, it was reported that Jose Aldo had broken a rib during a sparring session. The fight was delayed seven weeks. Conor couldn’t wait to fight however and booked another fight in the interim. Most would take the additional time to recover or refused a fight for fear of losing his undefeated standing before the title shot. But Conor was undeterred by such concerns. ‘My mind is absolutely bullet proof. What does it matter if the #3 guy replaced the #2 guy? I’ll beat his ass all the more.’

To Conor, Aldo backing out was a sign of fear and weakness. After all, he himself was willing to fight without most of his ACL. Conor takes his fights very seriously. And he says no one does it better than him. So, for Conor it was time once again to prove it.

A Champion Caliber Match

During the fight with Mendes, Conor took a severe beating. He was taken down over-and-over, and very nearly choked out. Then in the final round, facing the possibility of a loss by decision, with less than 10 seconds left in the fight, Conor went to that place of a champion and knocked Mendes out to win the match.

Totally Confident

This win setup what Dana White called, ‘Easily the biggest fight in the history of the UFC’. And the fight with Aldo was rescheduled. To Conor, he conquered his knee injury and was still able to win the Mendes fight. Aldo on the other hand let his rib injury set him back. To McGregor, this was the reason he was going to be champion. McGregor said the fight would prove the point he’d been trying to make all along: that he was #1.

The Test of a Champion

In the locker room before the fight, Conor watched footage of his opponent walking into the arena and said he looked tired. Then he watched himself walking in and said he looked fresh. This only establish more in his mind what he already knew was there. Conor knew this fight was for his future. But it was also for his family’s future. And he would not be let down. There was no way.

In walking to the ring, Conor was a man going to war. And he was the gun. Within 10 seconds of the match starting, after all the hype and anticipation, with the very first punch he threw Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo and ended his ten year undefeated run. And just like that, Conor McGregor had become the UFC Feather Weight Champion of the World.

The Next Level

At this point, Conor McGregor truly believed he could do anything. So, he made the dramatic decision to move up two divisions to fight the Welter Weight Champion of the World, Nate Diaz. During the fight, despite beating Diaz badly for much of the bout, Diaz tapped him out. But McGregor was undeterred, and five months later a re-matched was scheduled.

A Fight For the Ages

At the pre-fight press conference, Diaz’s crew threw bottles at McGregor’s crew. This was an act of total disrespect, but McGregor’s focus could not be shaken. Tactics and technique were what he said he’d use to win. Just as in their last fight, Conor came out swinging. He was picking Diaz apart with a blistering series of connecting punches and kicks for the first two rounds. But also just as before, Diaz kept coming, and started landing. In the final seconds of the third round, McGregor was barely able to stay on his feet and was saved by the bell.

In between rounds McGregor had nothing left. He could barely close his mouth to swallow water. Then somehow in the forth, he caught a second wind. He bloodied Diaz’s face badly. By the end of the fifth round, both men were indistinguishable. The fight went the distance, then by a majority decision, Conor McGregor was announced the winner.

Within 48 hours he was training again. Then four months later, Conor McGregor beat Eddie Alvarez to becoming the new UFC Lightweight Title holder, and the first UFC fighter ever to hold two UFC belts at the same time.

Throughout it all, Conor McGregor’s unshakeable certainty in himself and his mental toughness allowed him to overcome odds no one else was ever able to overcome. Though at some point ever fighter’s time on top comes to an end, few people will ever have earned the title of World Champion more than Conor McGregor.

 

 

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