LAS VEGAS – He never stops talking. That's the first thing everyone notices about Conor McGregor and for a long time it was just assumed that he was embracing a well-worn plan in the fight game – talk your way to riches. Considering it wasn't but a few years ago he was sitting in Dublin, sitting on the Irish dole, you could hardly blame him.
He's more than just force of personality, though. He's force of force, and that much was cemented here Saturday night when McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds flat to win the featherweight championship at UFC 194.
Aldo was the reigning champ, hadn't lost in a decade and was considered the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist in the world.
McGregor finished the fight so quickly it was condensed to a Vine. For a year or more, McGregor had talked and talked about Aldo, told him he was going to knock him out, told the world he was going to knock him out, mocked him when an injury delayed the fight and then told him "by God his day is coming."
It was great showmanship, how you draw a $10.1 million gate here, how you might challenge the biggest pay-per-view numbers in UFC history, how you leave the Las Vegas Strip full of wild Irish fans.
Yet that wasn't just talk, either. Just a couple days ago McGregor wasn't only talking in generalities about how he would destroy Aldo. He was talking in specifics.
He didn't just envision it, he didn't just scout it, he envisioned it and scouted it and then warned Aldo publicly about what mistake he was going to make – namely throw a wild right hand that McGregor could counter with one his vicious lefts.
Here was McGregor this week:
"I felt when we stared down, I felt his right hand was twitching, which was a subtle tell for me. He's ready to unload that right hand and I feel that could be a downfall for him. If he lets that right hand go, I will not be there …
"I will create traps and dead space inside that Octagon. I will walk him into that dead space. All of a sudden he will be in danger."
So it was said, so it was done. Aldo threw a big right. McGregor slipped it easily, the punch grazing his shoulder. He then dropped the mighty left to an exposed chin. Aldo was knocked senseless in mid-punch, falling to the mat. McGregor landed two exclamatory hammer fists and the fight was stopped. That was that.
There's calling your shot, and there is this.
"I did say that the right hand would be his downfall," McGregor said. "What I say happens, happens. … I just felt he would load up. I would give him that shot, give him that pressure. He loaded, I pulled … you fall into a shot like that, you go to sleep."
Maybe it was all lost in translation – McGregor is Irish, Aldo is Brazilian. Maybe it was just missed in the avalanche of verbiage. Maybe it was just coincidence, although that's one hell of a coincidence. Maybe it's the entire circus that McGregor whips up that rattled even a veteran champion. "It's not the same when you stand in front of me," McGregor said. "It's a whole different ball game. It's a whole different pressure bubble."
Maybe it was so damn outrageous that Aldo didn't believe it.
He should have. Conor McGregor's brashness is rooted in an almost unquantifiable level of self-confidence. Again, this was Jose Aldo across the way, the most dangerous man in the game, not someone to be trifled with, someone who even a fighter full of belief in victory would see and shut the hell up.
Who the hell gives away the game plan, warns a man that lethal of his tell?
"Who comes in and predicts one-round KOs?" McGregor said. "I did. And I did."
He leaned on some zen/meta concept of how the universe needs to hear it for it to occur.
"If you can see it here, and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen," McGregor said. "I see these shots, I see these sequences. A lot of time people don't put it out there."
Those people would be considered wise.
"If you truly believe in it, if you become vocal about it, you are creating that attraction and it will become reality," McGegor said.
"I knew I'd catch him. Mystic Mac strikes again."
Mystic Mac is now in charge. The UFC is his oyster. Twenty-seven years old and he's breaking all the records, breaking all the rules, turning the business on its ear. His only regret from Saturday was that Aldo was so aggressive so early. A few more minutes might have made for a better show.
He's the featherweight (145-pound) champion and could take on Frankie Edgar for another huge payday or Aldo down the line. He could move up to lightweight (155) and take on the winner of next week's Rafael dos Anjos-Donald Cerrone fight.
The UFC said both are options but if McGregor wants to move divisions, he has to vacate his featherweight title, which has been Dana White's policy. He doesn't want one person to hold two belts.
McGregor shakes his head at that.
"I'll tell you one thing: that won't be happening," McGregor said. "There is no way in hell I will be vacating the belt. I know why they do that with other fighters [because they don't fight enough].
"I am as active as any of them," McGregor said. "There is no problem with that. There is no vacating. That isn't going to happen."
Dana White is a pragmatic man. And a bottom-line one. And considering the money coming in, considering what kind of favorite McGregor would be in both divisions going forward, considering how void of starpower the lightweight division is, that policy might quickly become a loose ideal.
McGregor would love a fight in a stadium back in Dublin. McGregor will certainly be at the historic UFC 200 back here in July. McGregor will be on the cover of EA Sports (with Ronda Rousey).
McGregor is going to keep talking and talking and talking. He may never talk like this, though.
He saw Aldo eager to throw a right. He planned to step back and finish him with a left. He told Aldo both that he knew it was coming and how it would end. He warned him.
Then he finished the fight exactly how he said he would.
"With these small gloves, with the correct amount of force and the correct timing, the human chin can't take that," McGregor said, as if it was as simple as that.
With that, the legend grinned. With that, the legend grew.