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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1. Conor McGregor vs. Ivan Buchinger, first double-champ status with Cage Warriors

McGregor was a superstar in the making and winning the featherweight title was a big deal for Cage Warriors. Not only did he help the promotion gain popularity, but this was one of the first trends of fighting for a second title so quickly.

Despite a few canceled bouts, McGregor got a chance at the Cage Warriors lightweight title immediately after defeating Hill for the featherweight strap. McGregor gets plenty of kudos for his pioneering ways in MMA, but the double-champ status in back-to-back fights started here. Nowadays, fighters seem to be looking for the same opportunity without defending their title first.

Buchinger was a big name in Europe and seemed to be on the cusp of making the jump to the UFC. He was a good grappler and wrestler and was likely considered McGregor's toughest fight. Buchinger was 26 at the time with a solid 21-3 record.

Even in the build up to this fight, the questions regarding McGregor's grappling and wrestling defense were called into question. On the broadcast, they discuss how McGregor got his purple belt in BJJ a little before this fight, something that continued to be an underrated aspect of McGregor's game.

The crowd was electric. If there was one thing that sold McGregor's fights and his persona, it was the opportunity to fight in Dublin for his major fights. It created an incredible atmosphere, which would help McGregor reach the UFC immediately after this fight.

This is the best version of McGregor for several reasons. Similar to the Hill fight, McGregor was able to dominate the competition. It was the perfect storm of his confidence, urgency, motivation and skill to become one of the greatest mixed martial artists.

The strikes, the timing, and the versatility he showed against Buchinger is remarkable, especially when his UFC record is more about learning how to deal with most well-rounded fighters in the world. He has absolutely no reservations here as he chases his dreams in a big way. The accuracy on his strikes and the final blow were picture perfect, which becomes McGregor's modus operandi even in the UFC.

It's hard to be this aggressive in the UFC. He had incredible gameplans, tactics and showmanship to get himself the best fights with the right preparation. Against Buchinger, it's obvious McGregor was at his controlled, reckless peak. It's the MMA community's first real glimpse at one of the most exciting fighters to ever live.

This performance would be his last fight for Cage Warriors before making his UFC debut against Marcus Brimage in 2013 in Sweden. The rest, as they say, is history.