Mayweather vs McGregor: Conor McGregor has delivered on every bold prediction, so should Floyd Mayweather be wary?

“I'm going to change the game. I'm going to change the way people approach fighting.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 12:  UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor trains during an open workout at his gym on August 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. McG

"When a guy like me comes along with the number of people that I bring with me, everyone else has to step aside. I feel like a veteran now. I have found comfort in this circus. I find comfort in the uncomfortable. My goal is to be the best version of myself that is possible - and the best version is the greatest fighter of all time. That is my goal." - McGregor to Sky Sports in January 2015.

Four-and-a-half years ago Conor McGregor was collecting welfare benefits while Floyd Mayweather equalled his own all-time boxing record of earning a $32 million purse for beating Robert Guerrero. McGregor's ascent into a fight against Mayweather, which should earn them nine-figure sums, appears to be remarkably rapid, but he did warn us that it was coming.

In fact, he's been predicting his own greatness since he was a miserable, teenage plumbing apprentice. An innate belief in his own value has been present at every stage of McGregor's life and has delivered him to the cusp of a record-breaking occasion.

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Will it be a lovely day for Floyd Mayweather when he takes on Conor McGregor in Las Vegas on August 26?

But the remarkable mindset that has captivated MMA and boxing audiences was not a birth right. McGregor's teenage years were as rocky as the rest of ours - he quit his job because he didn't enjoy the morning alarm, drifted away from his amateur boxing gym despite a coach who believed he would have been "very good if he stayed", then quit MMA after losing his third fight.

"He went missing for a while," his coach Owen Roddy said. "It was in Crumlin and there was a lot of support for him. He gave up training for nearly a year." He was convinced to return and, despite losing his sixth fight too, something fundamental had clicked.

Acted differently

"When we had Conor for his fifth and sixth fights, we knew he'd go on to special things," remembered Graham Boylan, his early promoter. "He just acted differently to everybody. He stood out from a crowd of 30-odd fighters, everybody was looking at him. People with long teeth behind the scenes realised that if he could back up the things he was saying then he'd be a star."

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Conor McGregor

The fearsome aura that is now McGregor's trademark was slowly beginning to manifest itself on the regional MMA scene, around 2011. Meanwhile, somewhere 8,000 miles across the ocean, Mayweather swatted away Victor Ortiz in his 42nd fight (it remains his most recent stoppage victory).

An early opponent of McGregor's, Dave Hill, remembers mocking the Irishman's cockiness.

"I thought it was all an act, all for show," Hill said. "He was kicking off at the weigh-ins. But when he got in my face, because of his intensity, I thought: 'He really believes in himself.' That flustered me.

"He has a presence that doesn't give you a rest and puts you on the back-foot. I don't think it's an act anymore. But when I started fighting him I realised that he believes everything he says."

In the gym with Conor McGregor

A cult following also believed every word that he said. Relentless badgering from die-hard McGregor fans convinced UFC president Dana White, after a trip to Dublin, to recruit the prospect that he initially thought was a heavyweight.

Bred on battle

It lasted seven seconds longer than a minute, but McGregor's sharp-punching performance on an undercard in Sweden in 2013 had not gone unnoticed by his new bosses, who obliged the Irishman's plea for a $60,000 bonus for his maiden win. His welfare benefits ended, then and there.

"It was my first time as a coach at that level so it was new to all of us," his head coach John Kavanagh said. "Before he knocked out Marcus Brimage, he walked over to me and said 'this feels no different to the gym'."

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 12:  UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor sits to do promotional spots during an open workout at his gym on August 12, 2016 in

McGregor gambled on himself, and won. His second fight in Boston showcased an Irish-American fan-base and, by his third, he was headlining in Dublin. His evolution included a snarling gorilla splattered across his chest and his words, uttered to Sky Sports, were an eerie foreboding of the position he now finds himself in.

"I'm going to change the game. I'm going to change the way people approach fighting. Success is never final, I'll just keep on going.

"The more I look into my family history and the McGregor name, it was bred on battle. It makes me realise that this chose me, I wasn't meant to do anything else."

It's over and done with in my mind, I know what's going to happen, and I consistently tell people exactly how it will happen. Then I go out and execute it. I celebrate as soon as the contract is signed.
Conor McGregor in late-2014

McGregor thrashed Dustin Poirier in his Las Vegas debut then told us: "When Dustin fell I thought of the money. I have a good 20 seconds of thinking about a nice, fat cheque before I think about the next one. I didn't celebrate because it's a done deal. It's over and done with in my mind, I know what's going to happen, and I consistently tell people exactly how it will happen. Then I go out and execute it. I celebrate as soon as the contract is signed."

It was in this period, in late-2014, that he first planted the seed about Mayweather.

Record-breaker

"I only say things when I feel and I know that they are going to happen. People can respect that or not, it makes no difference, because they will stand up and take notice."

McGregor was telling Sky Sports about his UFC rivals but, two years later, the same words could be applied to the boxing fraternity where he resembles a volatile wedding crasher.

The predictions are not something that I just pick out of the air. I see it in my opponent's reaction to pressure, how they come forwards. Then I hear their voice and their words.
Conor McGregor in 2015

"The predictions are not something that I just pick out of the air. I see it in my opponent's reaction to pressure, how they come forwards. Then I hear their voice and their words. I see it in their eyes and then the finish comes to me. Throughout camp I have certain shots that I visualise landing and it all comes into a perfect storm."

Jose Aldo, the featherweight champion, became McGregor's figure of torment. The Irishman condescended the long-reigning title-holder in a manner that Mayweather is now becoming accustomed to. Aldo withdrew from a scheduled fight; no matter, McGregor beat a short-notice replacement and attracted hordes of fans to Vegas whose presence must have reminded Mayweather of welcoming of Ricky Hatton's followers.

conor mcgregor ufc

Such attendances were MMA's watershed moment, when the fledgling sport that was always boxing's awkward little sibling finally found its feet. Then, as if to reassign the Vegas clout, McGregor became UFC champion three months after Mayweather retired with his 49th consecutive win.

We might never know when Mayweather began taking a fight with McGregor seriously. It might be when the latter's "retiring young" tweet broke Twitter records last summer, or when he headlined the UFC's debut at Madison Square Garden by becoming their first fighter to hold two simultaneous championships before demanding a stake in the $4 billion organisation.

Either way, McGregor told you so.

Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor

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