Conor McGregor is the biggest star in UFC history, but the Irishman’s journey to the sport’s biggest promotion wasn’t particularly straightforward.
Long before he was headlining record-shattering UFC pay-per-views, he was struggling to earn a spot on the crowded UFC featherweight roster. In fact, he was initially denied a spot with the promotion flat-out.
In a Friday Instagram post, McGregor’s long-time head coach John Kavanagh reflected on the difficult they had getting the Irish superstar in front of UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby. Kavanagh shared a piece of correspondence between Shelby and Haraldur Nelson, McGregor’s former representation. In this correspondence, Nelson was attempting to get McGregor a spot in the UFC featherweight division, but Shelby rejecting the idea, explaining that there was no space on the featherweight roster with so many lightweights moving down a weight class at the time.
If he only knew at the time how valuable McGregor would end up being for the company…
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“If I can use any of your fighters, especially Conor, I will contact you,” Shelby wrote about signing McGregor. “At the moment, the featherweight division is terribly impacted from so many UFC lightweights moving down in weight. So, I’m not looking to sign anyone else for awhile, but hopefully, it will clear up soon and guys like Conor will get the opportunity.”
While Conor McGregor was initially rejected by Shelby and the UFC, he was ultimately signed by the promotion in early 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
After capturing the UFC featherweight title with a 13-second knockout of MMA legend Jose Aldo, McGregor ultimately hiked up to the lightweight division, and captured a second title with a knockout of another legend in Eddie Alvarez.
McGregor announced his retirement from MMA in June of this year, but already looks like he’s ready to return to the Octagon, ostensibly for a rematch with Dustin Poirier.