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CONOR MCGRE­GOR knows how to make a state­ment. Just two years and five fights into his UFC ca­reer, the Ir­ish feath­er­weight has gone from rel­a­tive un­known to the most elec­tri­fy­ing char­ac­ter in the sport. Yes, the 26-year-old is a bru­tal, ef­fi­cient fighter with an eclec­tic ar­ray of tech­niques and a knack for knock­outs (15 of his 17 wins come from TKOS, in­clud­ing four of his five UFC wins). But his me­te­oric rise owes as much to his mouth as to his fists, knees, and feet: Mcgre­gor is a sneer­ing, trash-spew­ing, over­the-top show­man more akin to a top-card pro­fes­sional wrestler than a cage fighter. Of­ten out­fit­ted in three-piece suits, he riles up fans with crazed mono­logues, taunts fighters mid-match with a wagged fin­ger, and boldly pre­dicts how long it’ll take him to in­ca­pac­i­tate op­po­nents (usu­ally two min­utes, but even if foes don’t tap, that’s about the time Mcgre­gor “sees their eyes dim,” as he puts it). “What can I say? I’m a talker,” he says. His unique brand of bom­bast has earned him the ti­tle of the Emer­ald Isle’s most googled ath­lete, not to men­tion a freshly inked Ree­bok con­tract, a world­wide le­gion of crazed, flag-wav­ing sup­port­ers, and, in July, a ti­tle shot against feath­er­weight cham­pion José Aldo at UFC 189.

“My suc­cess isn’t a re­sult of ar­ro­gance—it’s a re­sult of be­lief,” says the 145-pounder, whose lean frame and wild-eyed stare make him look like some long-ago war­rior who drinks ale from the skulls of con­quered kings. “My be­lief is what brought me here; it’s my most pow­er­ful ally. I knew I’d be in the UFC since I started my ca­reer.”

Born in Crum­lin, a scrappy sub­urb of Dublin, Mcgre­gor, who, de­spite his an­tics, is stoic and poised away from the cage, says he’s al­ways had an “in­sa­tiable cu­rios­ity for com­bat.” As a boy, he bounced from gym to gym, learn­ing ev­ery­thing from capoeira to muay Thai. Af­ter a stint as a plumber, Mcgre­gor pur­sued MMA full-time and even­tu­ally made his way to the Euro­pean cir­cuit, where he earned the nick­name “No­to­ri­ous” as well as the light­weight and feath­er­weight belts. He joined UFC in 2013 and was quickly rec­og­nized for his skills in both com­bat and scene-steal­ing.

“I have the great­est job in the world,” Mcgre­gor says. “I get paid loads of cash for beat­ing the crap out of peo­ple. And I’m very good at it.”

He’ll need that mind-set when he fights José Aldo. The Brazil­ian has de­fended the belt seven times and hasn’t lost a match since 2005.

“He has noth­ing that wor­ries me,” says Mcgre­gor, adding, with a smirk, “He’ll be done two min­utes into the sec­ond round.” —Matt Ber­i­cal

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