Conor McGregor makes UFC history at Madison Square Garden
Dubliner becomes first person in UFC history to hold two world title belts at same time
He came, he shouted obscenities, he pretended to throw a chair and, eventually, after so much tired hoopla, he conquered. Boy did he conquer. In the fourth minute of the second round of his contest with Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden, Conor McGregor hit the 32-year-old with the same left hook that he’d been tormenting him with since the contest began. Alvarez hit the floor with a thud and when the Dubliner pounced to try to inflict further damage the referee John McCarthy intervened to stop it.
When he did, McGregor became the new UFC lightweight champion and, as the reigning featherweight, the first to simultaneously hold titles in two divisions. His trainer John Kavanagh has said he thinks 155lbs is his charge’s best fighting weight and on this evidence that’s indisputable. Aside from an Alvarez leg kick that appeared to hurt him in the opening exchanges, he was in complete control of the bout. He was simply faster, more powerful and using his greater reach to almost toy with his opponent.
Having waited 23 years to get to Madison Square Garden, the mecca of combat sports in America, UFC were determined to get their money’s worth from the evening, with a card that ran for over six hours and which showcased the best and worst of the sport. It was well after one in the morning local time when Sinéad O’Connor’s soulful rendition of “The Foggy Dew” filled the arena and McGregor finally swaggered to the octagon.
He then swaggered around it as, in his role of challenger, he waited for Alvarez to arrive. He cut a composed, calm figure in that time though, looking for all the world like a man just waiting to go to work.
He subsequently set about his task like somebody in a desperate hurry to finish the job and go home. The first time he put Alvarez down, the champion showed all his experience by bouncing back up and appearing to evade real danger. The erstwhile lightweight champion came into this fight with a reputation as a doughty, experienced campaigner. However, none of that previous body of work proved any help in the face of a continued onslaught from a far superior McGregor.
He had him down three times in the first round and was enjoying such complete dominance in the second that at one point, he held his hands behind his back, inviting a challenge. The characteristic taunt drove the fiercely partisan crowd (Alvarez had been lustily booed during the introductions) wild. They had sensed from the first knock-down that there was only going to be one winner here.
“I’ve ridiculed everybody on the roster and I’d like to take this chance to apologise to absolutely nobody,” said McGregor in the ring afterwards, the exclamation point of a typically exuberant, foul-mouthed interview in which he, of course, boasted ad nauseum and then demanded to know where his second belt was. Finally, after some theatrics, that bauble was produced. He clambered up on to the edge of the octagon, gurning with one on each shoulder. Just like he said he would.