What I’ve Learned from Conor McGregor

For those of you who don’t know, Conor McGregor is an Irish professional mixed martial artist who is currently the UFC Lightweight Champion and Featherweight Champion.

Before Conor’s fame and success as a professional fighter, he became an apprentice plumber in his late teens – which to his family at the time, seemed like a more suitable career for a humble guy from Crumlin.

Lesson 1: even family & friends, who look out for you and have your best interest at heart, might not always share your dreams, goals, and aspirations. When venturing into uncharted territories that are unfamiliar to those around you, out of defense, they’ll jump in and hold you back to protect you (while what they’re really doing is hurting you). Your job isn’t to convince others why you want to chase your dreams, your job is to make your dreams become a reality and give others no choice but to notice. 

Despite the push-back Conor faced from his closest ‘supporters’, he decided to make MMA his full-time job in 2008.

Lesson 2: you really have to have confidence in yourself that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Your biggest enemy is your mind, it’ll tell you that you can’t do it, that it’s too hard, that you won’t be able to make money, that it’s too competitive to succeed…the list is endless. What you have to do is control the thoughts you tell yourself, the ideas you believe, and the values you hold. Conor was able to shut out all the distraction and listen to his inner noise, put the work in, and set out to prove the haters wrong and supporters right.

In Conor’s third pro outing, he faced Artemi Sitenkov in Dublin where he was beaten in the first round by kneebar submission.

Lesson 3: as you can imagine, losing is tough, especially when you’ve given up everything and have little to show for. When your friends are driving in nice cars, enjoy fancy dinners, travel on fun vacations, and you’re in the gym – you will look yourself in the mirror and doubt what you’re doing. When you’ve fallen, the best thing to do is remind yourself why you got started. Visualize your success, feel what it would be like to live the lavish life, get your hand raised, hear the crowd chanting your name…it is these mind games that will keep you going when everything around you is telling you to quit.

After the loss with Sitenkov, Conor went on to win his next two fights. After tasting a little bit of success, Conor was beaten again by Joseph Duffy by submission, in round 1, but this time, his opponent needed just 38 seconds to seal the win.

Since that night with Duffy, Conor won 15 out of 16 fights.

Conor was scheduled to fight world Featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, who was undefeated for 10 years – a fight he has been anticipating since he began his MMA career in 2008. A couple of weeks before the fight, Jose Aldo pulled out due to a rib injury. He was replaced by Chad Mendes, an American mixed martial artist who was ranked among the top 5 Featherweight fighters in the world.

Lesson 4: the change didn’t affect Conor at all. At the end of the day, Conor would fight anybody in a heart beat, there is no opponent, there is no Jose Aldo. You’re against yourself. If you have the mindset and the confidence that nothing can stop you, no matter who it is, when fight day comes, it doesn’t matter who you’re facing because in your mind you’ve already won. It would’ve been easy for Conor to make excuses, to be upset, and to reject the fight now that his new opponent (who had a completely different fighting style) was chosen literally weeks before the fight, but Conor moved forward unfazed.  Always focus on the main objective, work your ass off, be prepared for any situation/environment, and have the internal confidence of a lion – this way, no matter what you’re faced with, the result will always be the same, you’ll be on top.

Conor eventually faced Aldo and it took all of 13 seconds to land a deathly punch that was perfectly timed and accurately executed on the chin of the defending Champion – it was one of the most exciting, shocking, and amazing fights I’ve ever witnessed. You could tell from the onset that Aldo was stiff, a little nervous, and very angry, while Conor was calm and collected, like it was just another day at the office.

Lesson 5: champions are paid well to perform successfully under pressure – when everything’s on the line, and the whole world’s watching your every move, will you let the pressure get to you, or will you leverage the momentum to give you a boost? Observing Conor during the Aldo fight provided me with many invaluable lessons. His body language, posture, and looseness showed how confident this man truly was in his abilities. It was the most anticipated fight of the year and the most critical for Conor’s legacy. He didn’t let all that noise distract him, instead he stayed focused, and stepped into the ring determined to show the world why the hype around him was deserved.

Shortly after wining the Featherweight title, Conor immediately had his eyes on a new, more challenging goal – to become the lightweight champion. It’s funny, most people who would’ve been in Conor’s shoes after winning one title would want to soak in the success for a bit and enjoy the comfort, but Conor had larger aspirations (to do what nobody else had ever done, conquer the UFC).

His first fight in the new weight-category (lightweight) was with Nate Diaz – who was ranked #5, the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 5, and a scrappy fighter (a guy who can take many blows and keep coming at you). Nate choked Conor and forced him to tap out in the early second round. Conor took no breaks, and asked for a re-match shortly after the loss. Conor came back, and battled hard with Nate, to win by decision.

Lesson 6: the more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable. Change is always difficult, but is often necessary. To really adopt the growth mindset, you need to constantly re-evaluate your goals/dreams, you need to shoot for the stars and try to get there every single day. You have one life, one pen, one book, and how you choose to fill up the pages is up to you – based on what you write and how you live your life will be the story people read and remember.

Conor went on to fight Eddie Alverez (the former Lightweight champion) and destroyed him in 2 rounds, to claim his second belt and write a memorable chapter in his unforgettable legacy.