Conor McGregor's UFC journey: Historic success, chronic controversy, enduring star power

Cormier details how McGregor beat Holloway (1:33)

Daniel Cormier breaks down Conor McGregor's fight vs. Max Holloway and explains how McGregor sets up strikes using feints and also puts himself in dangerous positions. For more Detail, sign up for ESPN+ https://plus.espn.com/ (1:33)

Dana White remembers the first time he heard the name Conor McGregor, a name that would forever change mixed martial arts.

The UFC CEO was in Dublin to receive an award from Trinity College in 2013 when he invited fans on Twitter to join him at a nearby pub after the ceremony. Drinks would be covered by White.

It was that night, Feb. 11, when he first heard a name that would become the most talked about in MMA history.

"The place was packed, full of people," White said. "I was in there with the fans all night, and everybody kept talking about Conor McGregor."

When he flew back to Las Vegas, White asked his matchmakers about McGregor. Sean Shelby was familiar with the featherweight out of Dublin, and White flew McGregor in for a meeting.

"The first time I met him, we flew him into Vegas and he and I went to dinner, and I was blown away by him," White said. "When I got in my car, I called [then-UFC owner] Lorenzo [Fertitta] and I said, 'Let me tell you what, I don't know if this kid can fight, but if he can even throw a punch, this kid is going to be a huge superstar.'"

McGregor would make his UFC debut two months later in Stockholm. He was able to throw a punch, and White's instincts were prescient about McGregor's star power.

McGregor began a meteoric ascension that topped out when he became the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. But that has been followed by spectacle, defeat and legal trouble away from the Octagon.

As the MMA world awaits word on when its biggest star will end his latest spell of inactivity, let's take a look at how we arrived here with "The Notorious" Conor McGregor.

Jump to:

2013-15: Perfect start | 2016-17: Bouncing back, making history

2018-19: Trouble in and out of Octagon | 2020: The next chapter

2013-15: Perfect start

A blistering UFC debut

McGregor records a first-round TKO over Marcus Brimage in 67 seconds on April 6, 2013.

McGregor is 13-2 as a professional mixed martial artist after making his UFC debut in the prelims of a Fuel TV card in Stockholm. The accuracy and power in his left hand live up to the hype.

Significance: McGregor tells reporters afterward that Brimage was too caught up emotionally in the prefight trash talking, which led him to overthrow his shots. McGregor says that when he's outside of the Octagon "it's a game," and he feels like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, but in the Octagon it's emotion-free. That philosophy plays a meaningful role throughout McGregor's career as he becomes the sport's biggest trash-talker.

Quotable: "I'm the mental champ." -- McGregor

Watch this fight from UFC Mousasi vs. Latifi, on ESPN+

A costly win over Holloway

McGregor on loss: I'll take it on the chin and bounce back

Conor McGregor speaks with Todd Grisham about the lessons he learned about fighting at welterweight against Nate Diaz at UFC 196 and how he responds to Jose Aldo and others criticizing him on social media.

McGregor tears his ACL in a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway on Aug. 17, 2013.

McGregor is unable to get the finish for the first time in 14 pro wins. Considering the fighter the 21-year-old Holloway would go on to become, that's hardly a blemish for McGregor, who wins every round and is awarded a 30-26 decision by one judge.

Significance: McGregor's ACL in his left knee happens in the second round, and he won't fight again for 11 months. But the victory is significant in that it comes against an opponent who will go on to build a Hall of Fame career.

Watch this fight from UFC Shogun vs. Sonnen, on ESPN+

"We're not here to take part, we're here to take over"

McGregor scores a first-round TKO over Diego Brandao on July 19, 2014.

Significance: McGregor headlines a Fight Night card in just his third UFC bout. The card is held in McGregor's hometown of Dublin, and the passionate fan base that typically has to travel around the globe to support him arrives four hours before the main event to support a card full of Irish fighters, who go 5-0.

McGregor shows no ill effects from the torn ACL he suffered 11 months earlier vs. Holloway.

Quotable: "What's next is me and [then-UFC owner] Lorenzo Fertitta in the back with whiskey to talk football stadiums. Football stadiums and world titles, that's what I want." -- McGregor

Watch this fight from UFC Dublin on ESPN+

"You know what's next, the world title is next"

McGregor scores a first-round TKO of Dustin Poirier on Sept. 27, 2014.

Years later, Poirier will try to antagonize McGregor in 2019, hoping McGregor will choose him as the opponent for his return bout instead of Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. But McGregor will remind Poirier of what happened the previous time they fought.

"I fed you to the canvas in 90 seconds, bro," McGregor tweets.

The 2014 fight actually takes a little longer than that, but being taken out in 106 seconds doesn't sound much better for Poirier, especially when McGregor predicted it was going to be a first-round stoppage.

One particular congratulatory tweet stands out, as Khabib Nurmagomedov and McGregor exchange pleasantries.

Significance: McGregor's performance announces his arrival as a championship contender, and in the Octagon after the fight, he makes his call for a title shot. He doesn't get his wish right away, but it doesn't take long.

Quotable: "What the other featherweights don't understand is that it's a whole 'nother game when they get hit by me." -- McGregor

Watch this fight from UFC 178 on ESPN+

McGregor gets his first taste of UFC gold

McGregor scores a second-round TKO of Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight belt on July 11, 2015.

After featherweight champ Jose Aldo pulls out of his title defense against McGregor with injured ribs, Mendes is tabbed as a late replacement, with an interim belt on the line. It is the toughest bout by far for McGregor since he joined the UFC, but he overcomes the challenge.

Significance: The crowd of 16,019 inside the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas sets a UFC live gate record, and White says the pay-per-view units will rank among the UFC's highest. Not only does the bout speak to McGregor's drawing power, but the victory over an elite grappler like Mendes suggests that the one area of McGregor's game many thought was a weak link perhaps isn't so vulnerable. Next up is a unification bout against Aldo, whose decision to pull out with an injury draws McGregor's scorn.

Quotable: "In my opinion, Jose went running. I had bigger injuries leading up to this fight than a bruised rib, and I still showed up and performed. In my eyes, Jose went running. If he wants to come back, he can come back -- but I swear to God, his day will come." -- McGregor

Watch this fight from UFC 189 on ESPN+

Undisputed featherweight champ

McGregor knocks out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to unify the title on Dec. 12, 2015.

It is McGregor's fifth consecutive win by knockout and is the fastest finish in the history of UFC title fights.

Thank you for all the kind messages! I am extremely grateful and proud to be in the position I am in. To the naked eye it was 13 seconds, but to my team and my family it has been a lifetime of work to get to that 13 seconds. Congratulations to the staff at the UFC on a historic week in the sports history and an amazing 2015 for the company. It is an honor to be playing a part in this great companies continued growth and success and an honor to top off a phenomenal week in the sports history. Thank you to all the fans who travelled and made this week what it was!! The traveling Irish are untouchable when it comes to creating the atmosphere needed to make a week like this what it was!! I am forever blown away by the support of my country. We have changed the game forever!!! Respect to a great champion in Jose Aldo. The true greats will always overcome adversity. I wish him and his loyal team well on their journey back. Much respect. Thank you all!!!

A photo posted by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

Significance: There is no doubting McGregor now after he knocks out an all-time great in record time. The postfight talk turns to McGregor moving up to lightweight, possibly fighting the winner of Cerrone vs. champion Rafael dos Anjos.

Quotable: "Nobody can take that left-hand shot. He's powerful and he's fast, but precision beats power, timing beats speed. That's what you saw there." -- McGregor

Watch this fight from UFC 194 on ESPN+

2016-17: Bouncing back, making history

Nate Diaz is not surprised

Speculation runs rampant about McGregor's retirement tweet

ESPN MMA writer Brett Okamoto explains why Conor McGregor's tweet about retiring young is peculiar and speculates on the motives behind it.

McGregor taps out in the second round as Diaz wins by rear-naked choke on March 5, 2016.

McGregor had planned to move up to lightweight to challenge dos Anjos and possibly become the first fighter to hold two belts simultaneously, but dos Anjos withdraws with a broken foot. McGregor then decides to jump up another weight class to welterweight to face Diaz, who will have just over a week to prepare.

McGregor's left lands in the first round and bloodies Diaz's face early. But McGregor is facing a bigger man who is able to withstand the attack, and Diaz's power and ground game ultimately prove decisive. It is Diaz's ninth submission win in the UFC, one off the mark set by Royce Gracie.

Significance: McGregor draws the first $1 million disclosed purse in UFC history. His 15-fight win streak is over, but jumping up two weight classes negates some of the sting.

Quotable: "I'm humble in victory and defeat. He took the fight on short notice and done the job. He was efficient. I was not. These things happen. I'll learn, and I'll grow. I'll face it like a man." -- McGregor

Watch this fight from UFC 196 on ESPN+

"I have decided to retire young"

McGregor more calculated in win over Diaz

UFC featherweight Frankie Edgar explains how Conor McGregor was able to pull off a majority decision victory over Nate Diaz in their rematch at UFC 202.

McGregor tweets that he's decided to retire on April 19, 2016, although Dana White isn't sure what to believe. McGregor doesn't show up for a news conference later that week, and the UFC pulls McGregor from the UFC 200 card the following week, canceling his rematch vs. Nate Diaz.

White says he's pulling McGregor because the fighter doesn't want to honor the promotional requirements for the fight. "Conor did not want to come to Las Vegas and film the commercial and be a part of the marketing," White says.

McGregor posts on Facebook two days later that he's not retired, but he's tired of the promotional requirements and wants just to fight. He agrees to go to New York for a news conference, but that's it. The UFC doesn't budge and cancels the fight.

It won't be the last time he retires on social media.

Significance: After McGregor-Diaz 2 falls through, the light heavyweight unification bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier is elevated to the main event, but that fight is scratched because Jones fails a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency test. Miesha Tate's bantamweight title defense against Amanda Nunes becomes the main event, and Nunes wins her first UFC belt. It is the final card under Zuffa ownership, as the UFC is sold to talent agency WME-IMG.

Quotable: "It is time to be selfish with my training again. It is the only way. I feel the $400 million I have generated for the company in my last three events, all inside eight months, is enough to get me this slight leeway. I am still ready to go for UFC 200." -- McGregor

Mayweather says bout vs. McGregor is possible

Rumors of a crossover bout between Floyd Mayweather and McGregor pick up steam on May 8, 2016.

Mayweather says it's possible, while McGregor tweets out what a poster might look like for the fight.

Quotable: "Every time I go out there and compete, my number is, of course, $100 million or better. I feel I can demand that." -- Mayweather to FightHype.com.

"The king is back"

McGregor needs to be recognized as the greatest fighter

Chael Sonnen breaks down Conor McGregor's dominant performance against Eddie Alvarez, with McGregor holding championship in two different divisions at the same time.

McGregor ekes out a majority decision win over Nate Diaz at UFC 202 on Aug. 20, 2016.

McGregor battles back from adversity after getting tired in the middle of the bout to persevere in one of the best fights of the decade. For a while, it looks as if things will end up just like the first fight -- McGregor starts fast and slows down -- but McGregor is able to find another gear in the late rounds.

Significance: UFC 202 becomes the highest-selling pay-per-view event in promotion history. It is the first UFC PPV under WME-IMG, now known as Endeavor. A trilogy with Diaz seems inevitable, especially given how well the rematch has sold and what seems like legit bad blood between the camps. But White recommends McGregor return to featherweight to defend his title.

Quotable: "One minute, it looked like Conor was gassed, and he got a second wind. Diaz got dropped a couple of times, it looked like he was done, and he came back. It was an absolute epic fight." -- White

Watch this fight from UFC 205 on ESPN+

McGregor makes history

Okamoto thinks UFC took belt away from McGregor

Brett Okamoto believes the UFC took away Conor McGregor's featherweight title and examines what McGregor's relationship is like with the UFC.

McGregor becomes the first UFC fighter to hold title belts in two weight classes simultaneously as he destroys Eddie Alvarez on Nov. 12, 2016.

McGregor adds the lightweight belt of Alvarez, a former Bellator champ and one of the most decorated 155-pounders of all time, to his featherweight title with three knockdowns in the first three minutes of the fight. He finishes Alvarez at 3:04 of the second round.

Significance: McGregor's status is at its height. He calls out the new owners of the UFC -- WME-IMG -- and says he wants a piece. "Where's my share? Where's my equity? If I'm the one bringing this, they've got to come talk to me. That's all I know. You want me to stick around and keep doing what I'm doing? I want what I deserve. What I've earned." The card takes place at Madison Square Garden, the first UFC card in New York since the lifting of a longtime ban on MMA.

Quotable: "You know, Eddie Alvarez was saying Santa Claus isn't real. Santa Claus is back, you know what I mean? The guy is special. And what's next? We'll let him enjoy this moment. I'm gonna enjoy this moment. And we'll talk business later." -- White

Watch this fight from UFC 205 on ESPN+

The beginnings of an ugly rivalry

Undefeated lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov calls out McGregor on social media on Nov. 23, 2016.

One of Nurmagomedov's coaches had said a week prior that McGregor was ducking his fighter, and Nurmagomedov chimes in with a long social media post to make clear his intentions. "Don't chicken out please," Nurmagomedov tweets. "I know I'm a bad matchup for you, but you're the champion and you need to fight the best."

No longer a "champ champ"

Mayweather's win goes as planned

Andre Ward says Floyd Mayweather followed a methodical fight plan to score a 10th-round TKO win over Conor McGregor, although he was surprised how much Mayweather was hit.

McGregor is forced to vacate his featherweight title on Nov. 26, 2016, two weeks after adding the lightweight belt and becoming the first fighter to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously.

McGregor never defends his featherweight title after winning it with a 13-second KO of Aldo on Dec. 12, 2015. Instead, he opts to move up to welterweight to face Diaz in two epic bouts in 2016, losing the first and winning the second.

Significance: Aldo, who had beaten Frankie Edgar on July 9 for the interim belt, is elevated to undisputed featherweight champ. McGregor is expected to take time off to start 2017 for the birth of his first child.

Quotable: "He should take time off. He has been fighting nonstop. Nothing wrong with him taking time off. It's good for him and [girlfriend Dee Devlin], and it's good for the baby." -- Dana White

"The impossible deal is now done"

Mayweather announces his Aug. 26 bout against McGregor on social media on June 14, 2017.

White says the idea of McGregor fighting Mayweather was broached by 50 Cent when they happened to run into each other, but White was skeptical at first and would later say it's impossible. But fan reaction creates a momentum that White can't resist. "Everywhere I went, it was all anybody asked me about," White tells ESPN. "Then once I started to really feel it, that's when I started to take it serious, and I made an offer."

Significance: It has the possibility to break records for the most watched and highest-grossing pay-per-view ever.

Quotable: "I'm going to step in there and shock the whole goddamn world." -- McGregor

MayMac, the ultimate money fight

Dana White calls McGregor incident 'most disgusting thing' in UFC history

Dana White voices strong displeasure after an ugly incident at UFC 223 media day, in which Conor McGregor and his entourage attacked a bus, injuring several people at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Mayweather stops McGregor by TKO in the 10th round of a fight he probably could have stopped sooner on Aug. 26, 2017.

Mayweather starts slowly, takes a look at McGregor, then starts to pick him apart.

It is a fight to generate revenue, and in that respect, it succeeds.

Significance: Mayweather reportedly makes more than $100 million, while McGregor pockets more than $30 million. The event reportedly generates about 4.4 million pay-per-view buys, making it the second-biggest domestic PPV of all time, after Mayweather's 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao.

McGregor says this week that he'd like a rematch with Mayweather or perhaps a bout with Pacquiao.

Quotable: "I now, at 28 years of age, have my eyes firmly set on the 'highest-paid fighter' and 'highest-earning athlete' accolades." -- McGregor

2018-19: Trouble in and out of the Octagon

McGregor no longer a UFC champion

Dana White announces on March 2, 2018, that the UFC will strip McGregor of his lightweight title due to inactivity. The plan is to award the title to the winner of the Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson bout scheduled for April 7, but Ferguson tears a ligament in his knee after tripping on a cable in a television studio. Nurmagomedov ultimately fights and beats Al Iaquinta to become lightweight champ.

Significance: Now it's McGregor who must persuade Nurmagomedov to fight him.

McGregor formally charged after Barclays Center melee

Helwani: McGregor not easing into his return

Ariel Helwani breaks down Conor McGregor taking the fight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and how much of a win it is for UFC.

McGregor and more than a dozen other men storm the loading dock at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, after UFC 223 media day on April 5, 2018, and are arrested.

They are in search of Nurmagomedov, who earlier in the week slapped McGregor's teammate Artem Lobov. McGregor throws a metal dolly at a bus carrying UFC fighters, including Nurmagomedov. The window shatters, sending glass cascading onto several people inside. A few are injured, including two fighters who have to withdraw from fights at UFC 223 that coming weekend.

McGregor turns himself into New York police and is charged with three counts of assault and criminal mischief. In July 2018, he takes a plea deal, pleading guilty to disorderly conduct to avoid jail time. McGregor receives a sentence of community service and anger management classes.

Significance: McGregor is fortunate he didn't seriously injury anyone or receive jail time. If his plan is to build heat for a Nurmagomedov fight, it's a dangerous and reckless way to pursue that goal.

Quotable: "This is the most disgusting thing that has ever happened in the history of the company." -- White

McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov is set

The controversy that led to suspensions for McGregor, Khabib

Take a look back at the sequence of events that led to Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomdeov being suspended and fined.

Dana White announces on Aug. 3, 2018, that Nurmagomedov will defend his lightweight belt against McGregor on Oct. 6 in Las Vegas.

It will be McGregor's first UFC fight since Nov. 12, 2016, when he beat Eddie Alvarez. He then boxed Mayweather on Aug. 26, 2017. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opens with McGregor as a +150 underdog and Nurmagomedov a -180 favorite.

Significance: Nurmagomedov is putting his undefeated record on the line while McGregor looks to get back to the business of winning in the Octagon after a long layoff. The fight already has a strong undercurrent of hostility after McGregor threw a dolly through the window of a bus that Nurmagomedov was in. Video of that "disgusting" incident is included in the UFC's promos for the fight.

Quotable: White says he's not worried about any disruptive behavior from either fighter, despite the bad blood.

Melee follows McGregor tap-out

Did sexual assault allegation influence McGregor's retirement?

Brett Okamoto reacts to a New York Times report that Conor McGregor is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault.

After months of nasty trash talk from McGregor that crossed lines into religion and culture, Nurmagomedov finishes McGregor by submission in the fourth round with a choke on Oct. 6, 2018.

Nurmagomedov's wrestling rules the day, like it has many times before. McGregor, the underdog going in, has moments in the third round -- the only round Nurmagomedov has lost in the UFC -- but Nurmagomedov dominates otherwise.

The fighting doesn't end when McGregor taps out. Nurmagomedov gets into a verbal exchange with McGregor's corner, specifically McGregor training partner Dillon Danis. Nurmagomedov scales the cage and jumps at Danis, igniting an ugly melee at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Three Nurmagomedov teammates enter the cage and brawl with McGregor. Las Vegas Metro police officers detain several of those involved. All involved, including Nurmagomedov and McGregor, are later suspended and fined by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC).

Significance: Along with the Barclays bus attack, the postfight melee is another black eye for McGregor, Nurmagomedov and the UFC. Yet none of the bad behavior affects anyone's bottom line. UFC 229 is the highest-selling UFC pay-per-view event of all time.

Quotable: "He talked about my religion, he talked about my country, he talked about my father. He come to Brooklyn and he broke bus, he almost killed a couple people. What about this?" -- Nurmagomedov

Watch this fight from UFC 229 on ESPN+

McGregor arrested for smashing cellphone

McGregor is charged with strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief, both felonies, for grabbing and stomping on a man's cellphone as the man tries to take his photo in the middle of the night in South Florida on March 11, 2019.

The charges and a subsequent civil suit are later dropped.

Report: McGregor under sexual assault inquiry

McGregor on bar altercation: 'I was in the wrong'

Conor McGregor apologizes for his involvement in an April bar altercation and tells Ariel Helwani whether he expects to fight in the UFC again.

The New York Times reports on March 26, 2019, that McGregor is under investigation for an alleged sexual assault in his native Ireland.

He was arrested and released after questioning, according to the report, but he was not charged. The investigation is ongoing, the report says.

McGregor tweets hours before the report that he is retiring from MMA. It's the second time he's made such an announcement on social media.

Video shows McGregor hitting man in Dublin bar

Can Conor McGregor return to his former glory?

Brett Okamoto looks back at Conor McGregor's complicated journey, becoming the first double champion inside the UFC's Octagon and having multiple transgressions outside of it.

A video surfaces on Aug. 15, 2019, that shows McGregor hitting a man in a bar after the man refused McGregor's offer of a shot of his whiskey brand.

McGregor expresses remorse during an interview with Ariel Helwani on ESPN, and he's later charged with assault. He ultimately is fined and avoids jail time.

McGregor reportedly accused of second sexual assault

The New York Times reports on Oct. 19, 2019, that a second woman has accused McGregor of sexual assault. The report states that McGregor has not talked to police or been charged. McGregor denies the allegation.

2020: The next chapter

McGregor's return bout is set vs. Cowboy

Sonnen impressed by McGregor after being out 460 days

Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping break down Conor McGregor's impressive performance vs. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. For more UFC, sign up here for ESPN+ http://plus.espn.com/ufc.

McGregor will face Donald Cerrone on on Jan. 18, 2020, in Las Vegas in what will be his first fight since losing to Nurmagomedov on Oct. 6, 2018.

Many believe McGregor picked "Cowboy," who lost his previous two fights by stoppage, because he's a safer opponent than someone such as Justin Gaethje.

McGregor opens as the betting favorite.

Significance: White says McGregor will be first in line for a lightweight title shot if he wins, which could put him back in the Octagon vs. Nurmagomedov. Some see that as unfair considering McGregor hasn't won in three years and the Cerrone fight will be at welterweight. White says it's a 155-pound bout that neither fighter has to cut weight for. McGregor says he also has an eye on welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, and he'd also consider fighting Jorge Masvidal after Cerrone.

Quotable: "I am back. I am back to who I am, and I look forward to going in and showcasing it on Jan. 18, and whoever is after that, again it does not matter. I'll be ready. This is the beginning of my 2020 season." -- McGregor

Impressive win or strategic success?

Dana White reacts to McGregor's retirement tweet

Dana White says nothing surprises him these days after Conor McGregor tweets he is retiring from fighting.

McGregor needs just 40 seconds to dispatch Cerrone, prompting critics such as Nurmagomedov and Diaz to claim the strategy of picking the right opponent worked well for McGregor's return.

McGregor lands a head kick and several shoulder strikes to notch his fastest win since his 13-second knockout of Aldo in December 2015.

There is no specific call-out after the fight. Will he wait for the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on April 18? Will he fight Justin Gaethje or Diaz in the meantime?

The coronavirus pandemic puts those questions in a different context. The UFC suspends three cards and doesn't have a location for UFC 249 less than two weeks before it is supposed to take place. And Nurmagomedov, who had flown back to Dagestan, appears to have pulled out of the card because of travel restrictions.

McGregor is leading the fight for a full lockdown in Ireland to combat the virus, and his coach, John Kavanagh, says there is no way McGregor will step in to fight in April, leaving his next move in the Octagon up in the air.

McGregor announces his retirement on social media -- again

Cormier details Poirier's KO of McGregor

Daniel Cormier breaks down Dustin Poirier's most effective strikes vs. Conor McGregor in UFC 257. Watch the full episode on ESPN+.

Fighters might be the most guilty of all athletes of prematurely retiring, so it is with no small degree of skepticism that McGregor's latest retirement announcement is received on June 7, 2020.

The tweet comes out of the blue, as the only headlines surrounding McGregor recently have involved when he will return and whether it will be on Fight Island. During the pandemic, the venue in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, has served as the UFC's home base.

McGregor had said he wanted to fight three times in 2020, but after he beat Cerrone in January, the UFC's schedule was upended by the coronavirus pandemic. There was talk of McGregor fighting in July, maybe the trilogy bout against Diaz, and then possibly meet the winner of the lightweight unification bout between Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje later in the year.

But after his latest retirement announcement, uncertainty reigns.

Back to boxing? McGregor eyes fight with Manny Pacquiao

In February 2020, when Manny Pacquiao joins Paradigm Sports Management, which also represents McGregor, speculation immediately centers around a McGregor-Pacquiao boxing match. McGregor had been talking about wanting to box again, and he has said there was some talk about boxing Pacquiao.

That idea subsided as possible MMA opponents were being discussed for McGregor, but the pandemic changed everything. McGregor was put on the shelf, and that inactivity led him to announce a retirement that few thought would be permanent. On Sept. 25, McGregor announces that he will be returning, but not to the UFC. McGregor tweets he will be fighting Pacquiao in the Middle East.

Will it happen? There is reason to believe it will. But what about McGregor fighting the winner of the UFC lightweight championship fight between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje, which takes place on Oct. 24?

Stay tuned.

McGregor accepts UFC offer to fight Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23, but hopes for certain venue

On Oct. 14, 2020, McGregor relents on his demand that he fight in 2020 when he accepts the UFC's offer to face Dustin Poirier on Jan. 23, but there is a twist. McGregor is hoping the fight will take place at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Texas is allowing up to 50 percent of capacity at venues, and the UFC hasn't held an event in front of live fans since March 7.

Will that wrinkle be enough to halt negotiations?

McGregor vs. Poirier 2 to headline busy week on Fight Island

The UFC is headed back to Fight Island for its first slate of events in 2021, which includes the return of McGregor at UFC 257.

Dana White announces that McGregor's nontitle lightweight fight against Poirier on Jan. 23 will take place on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The pay-per-view event will cap off a series of three events in seven days: UFC Fight Night events on Jan. 16 and Jan. 20, followed by UFC 257.

It doesn't last long

Poirier avenges his loss to McGregor and picks up by far the biggest win of his career.

The perennial UFC lightweight contender shocks McGregor on Jan. 23, 2021, beating him via TKO after swarming him with punches at 2:32 of the second round in the main event of UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.

Quotable: "It's hard to overcome inactivity over a long period of time." -- McGregor, after fighting for just the second time since 2018

Watch this fight from UFC 257 on ESPN+

McGregor's legacy on the line with trilogy bout

McGregor injures leg in Round 1, Poirier wins by TKO

Dustin Poirier wins the trilogy by TKO vs. Conor McGregor via a doctor's stoppage after he injured his lower tibia in Round 1.

It's not outlandish to say that the entire narrative of McGregor's athletic career could be on the line in his third fight with Poirier, set for UFC 264 in Las Vegas on July 10, 2021.

While the meeting at UFC 257 only months earlier had been cordial, the leadup to this one was not. McGregor had pledged a donation to Poirier's charity organization, and when the money did not arrive, it drove a wedge between the fighters. McGregor became especially nasty during the prefight buildup, turning this into a grudge match.

The fight does not go well for McGregor. Poirier is in control early, getting the fight to the canvas and landing ground-and-pound elbows and punches to bloody McGregor. Back on their feet late in Round 1, both men throw punches that miss late, and when McGregor steps back he collapses to the canvas, his lower left leg twisted grotesquely. He has broken his tibia. And while he makes it to the horn, the fight is over, a Poirier win by TKO (doctor stoppage).

Significance: McGregor now has lost three of four, his only win since 2016 being the quick finish over a faded "Cowboy" Cerrone. His immediate future and his career are up in the air.

Quotable: "This is not over! If we have to take this outside for him, we'll take it outside." -- an embittered McGregor, seated against the Octagon fence, awaiting medical treatment for his leg

Quotable: "Karma's not a b----, she's a mirror." -- Poirier, pointing to McGregor, who had crossed the line of decency with his prefight trash talk, now having his broken leg braced for him being carried out of the Octagon

Watch this fight from UFC 264 on ESPN+

Another incident at Barclays

McGregor is involved in an altercation with recording artist Machine Gun Kelly on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 21, 2021, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Video shows McGregor throwing a punch that does not land, before the men are separated. No police involvement is reported.

Accused of attack in Italy

Italian DJ and television personality Francesco Facchinetti alleges that McGregor punched him and broke his nose in an unprovoked, unexpected attack during a party in Rome on Oct. 17, 2021. Facchinetti will go to the police to file changes, and a few days later, he sues.

Woman alleges she is attacked on yacht

A woman claims in January 2023 that the previous July she was physically attacked by McGregor on his yacht off the coast of Spain. The woman says she jumped off the yacht to escape McGregor and suffered a broken arm, but did not file a complaint with Spanish police at the time.

After she files a civil suit against McGregor, the woman reports that her car is set on fire outside her home in Dublin and later a brick is thrown through a window at the home. By the end of February, her lawsuit is withdrawn, and there are no reports of a resolution.

The Ultimate return

The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Chandler trailer

Team Chandler and Team McGregor go head-to-head in the newest season of Ultimate Fighter, premiering May 30th.

The UFC announces on Feb. 4, 2023, that McGregor will be a coach on Season 31 of "The Ultimate Fighter," with his counterpart being Michael Chandler, a onetime UFC lightweight title challenger and a three-time Bellator champ.

It will be the second TUF coaching stint for McGregor, who headed a team on Season 22 in 2015, coaching against Urijah Faber. However, McGregor and Faber did not fight each other after the taping, as is the custom for coaches on the show.

The expectation is that McGregor and Chandler will fight following the TUF season.

TUF time to be a coach

Season 31 of "The Ultimate Fighter" begins taping in February, and the show begins airing on May 30.

Team McGregor struggles, losing all but one of the eight lightweight and bantamweight quarterfinals. But after Brad Katona, who trains with McGregor at SBG gym in Dublin, is shifted from Chandler's team to McGregor's, McGregor does end up with one of the two season champs.

But the show wraps with no announcement made of a McGregor vs. Chandler bout.

NBA mascot gets TKO'd

Appearing at Game 4 of the NBA Finals on June 10, 2023, in Miami, McGregor performs a skit at halftime with the Heat's mascot, Burnie, in which the script calls for him to knock out the mascot. But video shows McGregor delivering a second punch to the fallen Burnie, and it sent the man inside the costume to the emergency room for pain medication.

Sexual assault alleged at same NBA game

The day after that same NBA Finals game between the Heat and Denver Nuggets, a woman goes to Miami police alleging that McGregor sexually assaulted her during the game in a VIP restroom at Kaseya Center.

The woman says McGregor "aggressively kissed her" before attempting to force her into multiple sexual acts. McGregor denies the allegation through his attorney.

McGregor criticizes Irish immigration

After the Dublin stabbing of a woman and three children leads to riots, McGregor responds on Nov. 23, 2023, with anti-immigration statements on social media, saying Ireland is "at war," among other things.

Days later, the Irish Mirror reports that McGregor is part of the police's criminal investigation over alleged incitement to hatred.

McGregor, the tease

McGregor posts on X on Dec. 30 that he will announce the date and opponent for his comeback fight on New Year's Day 2024. In a subsequent post, he calls it "The Greatest Comeback in Sports History."

McGregor vs. Chandler at International Fight Week in 2024

McGregor doesn't wait until New Year's Day for his announcement, instead posting on X on Dec. 31 that he will face Chandler in his comeback fight. In the video, McGregor claims that he will fight Chandler on June 29 in Las Vegas and that the fight will be at 185 pounds (middleweight), before laughing sarcastically. During the UFC 300 press conference, Dana White confirmed that McGregor and Chandler would square off at UFC 303 at International Fight Week in a welterweight fight, 170 pounds.

UFC 303 first look: Biggest questions, early bets, predictions for McGregor-Chandler