At just 26 years of age, many have questioned the status of Conor McGregor.
After Saturday night and UFC 189, those questions do not exist anymore.
McGregor became the interim UFC featherweight champion with a second round finish of Chad Mendes, doing just as “Notorious” said he would.
The two had several healthy exchanges early on, with Mendes scoring numerous times with takedowns. However, after a failed submission attempt in the final moments of the second, McGregor pounced, landing a left hand that floored “Money.”
Competing in front of a pro-Irish crowd in Las Vegas, McGregor (18-2) had his walkout song performed by Sinead O’Connor.
“I am just blown away by the support and am so grateful for everyone,” a humbled McGregor said. “So much went into the build up for this, traveling around the world twice, promoting the fight with Jose (Aldo) and Chad. There were so many mixed emotions, but to hear all the support…it is flooring; I’m shaking.”
As soon as McGregor saw his opening, the fans were on their feet, meeting him with thunderous applause. And, despite all the back-and-forth in the media before the contest, the two exchanged pleasantries after the action.
McGregor also addressed his critics who claimed he was being “protected” from fighting wrestlers.
“I knew I was going to prove to people I’m a true fighter,” he said. “They said I was being protected. That I was gifted a title shot.
“When my title shot went running, I still came in here and was a professional.”
A rib injury suffered in training knocked Aldo out of the long-awaited contest, but set the stage for the two to meet when he is cleared. Aldo had been the only fighter to wear UFC featherweight gold before McGregor’s win.
“Jose went running,” he said. “I have bigger injuries than bruised ribs and I still showed up and performed.
“If he wants to come back, he can come back. His day will come.”