Hubris has been a rare commodity on Notorious nights over the past three years as Conor McGregor has risen from reluctant plumber to unrepentant showman in the self-anointed fasted growing sport in the world.
You could normally find the Dubliner at his most humble in the moments immediately after a seismic victory as triumph slowly sunk in. On his night of nights in New York City in the early hours of Sunday morning, that precedent was another shredded in a bad week for them Stateside.
McGregor devoured lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the headline event of UFC 205 with such ease that for a time, he did it with his hands behind his back. In the process he became the first simultaneous two-weight world champion in the organisation’s history.
After marking his first fight week in the Big Apple with plenty of his best and no little of his worst, it looked as though McGregor was about to be reflective. Looks were to be deceiving.
“I’d just like to say from the bottom of my heart, I’d like to take this chance to apologise... to absolutely nobody,” McGregor roared into the microphone moments after victory. “The double champ does what the f**k he wants.”
Decibel levels soared. The grandstanding was a little more focused, finessed by the time McGregor made his way to the quieter post-fight press conference, both lightweight and featherweight belts sat in front of him on the table. But the message was pretty much the same: McGregor feels he holds all the aces... and now he wants to play dealer too.
“I’ve been happy to just continue doing what I’m doing but I feel I’ve outworn the previous contract,” he said of his status in a UFC that had changed hands this summer for $4 billion and celebrated its most lucrative night ever on Saturday, thanks to his pulling power in this the maiden card in Manhattan.
“I know I’m the highest-paid already but I’m looking at what they’re taking in. You want me to stick around and help service that debt and continue to push the company? Bring me on board for real, not just as this.
“I need to be set for life with this. If you want to be truly in on this, then I need to be all in on this proper — as owner. An equity stake in the company, that’s what I’m looking for.”
McGregor has thus far got his hands on almost all that he’s looked for. It was never easier found than Saturday night however.
As pitch perfect as the Dubliner was throughout the eight minutes of one-way action, it’s difficult to overstate just how wretched Alvarez’s performance was. A veteran of 30-plus fights, he looked a nervous novice from the get-go. You wondered if he was the only soul in the arena who had never seen so much as a gif of McGregor in action.
The challenger had taunted the champion in the build-up, McGregor saying he couldn’t wait for the moment he would look into Alvarez’s eyes and see that he had entered panic mode. It took all of 30 seconds.
An early Alvarez leg kick found its mark but once McGregor connected with his first true strike, the clock was ticking down on the Philadelphia native’s reign — fast. He was floored three times in the first three minutes, finding mortifyingly little in response.
The seconds spent on the stool in between the first and second rounds will go down as his brightest moments in his only title defence. It really was that bad.
McGregor ensured as much with all of the precision and power we have come to know. There was a newfound patience too — a vital lesson learned in defeat to Nate Diaz earlier in the year. McGregor took his time and then put Alvarez out of his misery with a shade under two minutes to go in the second. A four-punch salvo secured history.
“Eddie is a warrior,” McGregor said. “But they’re not on my level. You’ve got to have the attributes to defeat me.”
The most important attribute would appear to be an ability to take McGregor’s lethal left hand and not fold in on top of oneself, something only Diaz has shown any propensity for in the past three years. As is often the case, a clutch of Saturday night’s other performers stepped forward to insist they could be the ones to derail the juggernaut next time out.
Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley — who had temporarily donated his belt to the double champion as UFC staff scrambled to get a second piece of hardware into the ring in the moments after victory (McGregor’s own featherweight strap had been left in his dressingroom) — was among those eager to take on the Notorious challenge. So too Russian lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
McGregor was unsurprised to hear of the canvassing.
“I’m sure he would,” he smiled when told Woodley would welcome him back up to the 170lb division in which he had fought Diaz twice. “They all would. I’ve got a million other hurdles before I even consider any of this.”