Conor McGregor guaranteed himself a featherweight title shot and a nice paycheck Sunday with his performance in a one-sided rout of Dennis Siver at TD Garden in Boston.
But when McGregor did a flying leap over the cage and raced toward champion Jose Aldo, seated ringside, making threats and shouting epithets, the passion for and the significance of the upcoming title fight increased monumentally.
It now stands as one of the most hotly anticipated fights of the year, one that will draw a massive crowd and guarantee each of them a massive payday.
McGregor was an 11-1 favorite over Siver, but it was like he was an 11,000-1 favorite. He was completely composed and in control and ruthlessly broke Siver down and tore him apart.
The end came at 1:54 of the second round, shortly after McGregor landed a straight left that sent Siver staggering backward onto the canvas. McGregor mounted him and quickly finished it, forcing referee Herb Dean to wave it off.
Siver was cut, his face full of welts and bumps and looked as if he was mugged by a gang of thieves.
McGregor had boasted before the fight that he'd easily outclass Siver and stop him early. He went out and methodically did just that, raking Siver consistently with straight left hands and hurting him with kicks to the legs and body.
His only shortcoming on this night was in coming up a bit short of a win in just two minutes. But he even had an answer for that.
"I'll tell you, I said two minutes, but I meant two rounds," McGregor said, deadpan, in the cage not long after he'd scored the biggest win of his career.
McGregor turned the featherweight division on its head almost from the moment he made his UFC debut on April 6, 2013, when he blew out Marcus Brimage.
He clearly has a quick wit and the gift of gab and an innate sense for promotion.
He was calling himself the best fighter in the division as soon as he joined it, and it was hard to know what to make of him. But with each successive performance, he showed that he is no joke as a fighter.
That is hardly a prediction he'll defeat Aldo, who not only has won 18 bouts in a row over a more than nine-year span, but stands among the greatest mixed martial arts fighters ever.
McGregor hasn't been in with a big, tough, grinding wrestler, and it remains to be seen how he'd do against that sort of fighter. But Aldo is the consummate striker and isn't going to look to take McGregor down, so stylistically, the bout sets up as an intriguing stand-up battle.
Even former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, who has a legitimate claim to the next title shot at Aldo, ahead of McGregor, came away impressed.
Working as an analyst on Fox Sports 1, Edgar said, "McGregor lived up to the hype. He looked phenomenal."
Aldo did his part by the way he handled himself post-fight. Aldo has often come across as a dour and angry man, unapproachable, and always seems to have a chip on his shoulder.
But when McGregor hurled himself over the cage and stood a few feet away, yelling at him like a lunatic, Aldo showed the guts of a burglar. He didn't flinch. He didn't move. He simply stood and smiled.
And while virtually everyone else who had seen McGregor was impressed, Aldo saw things a bit differently.
"That's normal to me," Aldo said. "He's a joker and a court jester to me. All I do is laugh at him."
It will likely be held in May in Las Vegas and figures to have intense interest and a heavy build-up.
McGregor played his win for all it was worth and hurled insults at Aldo once he returned to the cage.
"I'm going to hand him my spit bucket, and then stand back and wait for him to spit shine the belt so it's ready for me to take it," McGregor said.
He'll have to deal with his share of haters because of his outspoken manner. And it's almost certain he'll go into the fight with Aldo as an underdog.
Aldo isn't going to be intimidated and it's going to take a Herculean effort to defeat him.
McGregor, though, proved on Sunday he belongs in the equation as the most deserving choice for Aldo's next challenger.
His critics can run down a list of all the things he hasn't done, but he's won five fights in a row, finishing four, and he's looked increasingly better each time out.
Aldo may shut his mouth for good, and it would be no shock if Aldo won going away.
Aldo is that good; he does that to most men he faces.
But you know what? McGregor is plenty good, too.