By knocking out Eddie Alvarez and becoming the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history, Conor McGregor silenced all his critics. There can be no more debating his greatness. That time is over.
There is one question that remains, however: Where does he rank on the all-time list?
Let's answer a couple questions right of the bat. No, it isn't too early to start wondering about McGregor’s place among the UFC legends, and yes, he's high on the list already. Very high.
In the last 11 months alone, McGregor has won the featherweight world title by sleeping the pound-for-pound king Jose Aldo in 13 seconds, gone to war with Nate Diaz at welterweight — twice — and now KO’d one of the most decorated lightweight world champions of all time.
Four fights, three divisions, two titles and one bad man, maybe the baddest in history.
Many MMA fans will cry foul, proclaiming that while McGregor has burned as bright as anyone, he hasn't burned long enough. His meteoric rise to superstardom has been just that, meteoric. And like a meteor, he will be gone as quickly as he arrived.
What those fans fail to take into account, however, is that if McGregor retired today and never stepped inside the Octagon again, he would still have changed the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts more than any single fighter in history. That will ultimately be McGregor’s greatest legacy.
Pound-for-pound, McGregor is as dynamic a fighter as there ever has been. He's won nine fights in the UFC, and in eight of those victories he's been awarded Fight of the Night, Performance of the Night or Knockout of the Night. It's not just what he's doing — it's how he's doing it.
In every other professional sport, it is much more important to walk the walk than it is talk the talk. In combat sports, however, it is equally as important to talk a big game as it is to fight a big game, and nobody on Earth talks like McGregor. He is without question the UFC’s Muhammad Ali in terms of talk.
It may not be as eloquent and thought out as “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee," but the Irishman knows how to frustrate an opponent and captivate a crowd. No matter whether fans love him or hate him, they can't take their eyes — or ears — off him.
There are other fighters who have the résumé and accolades to lay claim as the greatest of all time. Anderson Silva won 16 straight fights in the UFC and looked unbeatable for years. Georges St-Pierre is widely regarded as the best welterweight ever and only lost twice in his UFC career. And most recently there is Jon Jones who, despite his out-of-competition missteps, has been nothing short of dominant inside the Octagon.
Silva, GSP and Jones each has a blemish that McGregor does not, however. Silva has a PED pop, Jones has his multiple run-ins with the law, and GSP would never leave his comfort zone and make the fight the fans wanted to see.
Is McGregor the GOAT already? No one can truly answer that definitively. There's always unavoidable bias and nuance when trying to compare fighters across weight classes and generations.
What is evident, however, is that the conversation can no longer be had without mentioning McGregor. He's done too much, too quickly to be left out. He's earned his place among the legends.
Whether he goes down as the most celebrated MMA champion in history or not is still left to be seen, but one thing is certain: McGregor rules the UFC world with nearly absolute power, leaving his followers and his doubters all singing one common phrase: “All Hail King McGregor.”
Wow all hail the king! @TheNotoriousMMA ... Fucking incredible
— Ian McCall (@Unclecreepymma) November 13, 2016
A writer and politican of all things college football and college basketball from Boise State to UCA and beyond.