5 Conor McGregor pre-UFC fights you need to watch

  • Conor McGregor is one of the wildest fighters the UFC ever had
  • But he had a whole career before the UFC many fans have never seen
  • Here are five of the best pre-UFC fights starring McGregor
Jul 9, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor reacts during weigh ins for UFC 264 at T-Mobile
Jul 9, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Conor McGregor reacts during weigh ins for UFC 264 at T-Mobile / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Conor McGregor vs. Artemij Sitenkov, first professional loss

Before Khabib Nurmagomedov, there was Artemij Sitenkov.

When you look at all of McGregor's fights leading up to this one, the confidence is growing, the raw skill on the feet is there, but the discipline is lacking. For someone who likely had his sights on the next step, Sitenkov taught McGregor a lesson that day.

McGregor was aggressive and even did some showboating. Sitenkov pulled guard the moment he got the chance and took a fish out of the water. At the UFC level, for example, in a similar fight, there's a good chance a striker like McGregor will try to keep his distance and stay conservative till he can pick his spots, especially as his opponent gets tired. But this isn't the UFC.

McGregor was trying to get up but was getting pulled back into full-guard. The interesting part here is the moment Sitenkov realized he had nothing with the upper body, he transitioned to the lower body. Instead of defending the grappling, McGregor made the mistake of trying to punch his way out. Sitenkov slowly worked his way to the leg, while McGregor did his best to defend, but he just wasn't good enough on the ground and got caught.

Despite lacking the big lights, there was something about the energy for this fight. McGregor, looking to leapfrog his way to big the stage, while compiling a great highlight reel, takes on a great grappler and gets caught in a submission. After the fight, seeing McGregor stay on the mat in shock, along with Sitenkov's "this is your guy?" attitude, was symbolic of there being no easy path to the top in MMA.

Regardless of where Sitenkov's career went, he knew he derailed a train that day.