2016 was undoubtedly the year of Conor McGregor. In fact, one could argue that no fighter in the history of the UFC has had a bigger year than the Irish superstar … and it all started with a loss.
McGregor came into the year on top of the world. In December he finally got to face Jose Aldo to unify the featherweight title, having won the interim belt off Chad Mendes when Aldo pulled out of their first fight in July. It took McGregor all of 13 seconds to knock out Aldo, earning him the 145 pound strap and a world record for fastest title fight in UFC history.
2016 was supposed to start with even more UFC history, in this case Conor’s quest to become the first fighter to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously. With the featherweight strap slung over one shoulder, he immediately moved up to lightweight to challenge then-champion Rafael Dos Anjos for the 155 pound lightweight championship. Unfortunately, his bad luck with injured competitors struck again, and Dos Anjos pulled out of their match over a broken foot. It was the sixth time McGregor’s original opponent would change leading up to a fight.
With just over a week to go before the event, McGregor called out Nate Diaz as a replacement opponent. When negotiations between Diaz and the UFC stalled over weight concerns, McGregor agreed to have the fight take place at the welterweight limit of 170 pounds, two weight classes above his typical fighting weight of 145 pounds.
“Make it 170,” McGregor said. “Tell him to get comfortable.”
But for once all of McGregor’s braggadocio came back to haunt him. Conor spent fight week filling up on steaks instead of cutting weight, and the extra pounds left him slower and sluggish on game night. Later on, we learned that he suffered from a staph infection in the weeks leading up to the fight that undoubtedly drained his cardio.