When one thinks of the UFC, the name Conor McGregor is never too far away.
He’s the golden boy of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, notorious (literally) for his barbaric fights, his lavish lifestyle, and his no fucks given style of trash talking.
McGregor is also well known as the UFC’s highest paid fighter, and by a country mile at that.
He’s expecting UFC 205 to pick up more than $2 million from pay-per-view alone, and if he’s correct in his assumptions, the Notorious can be expecting a pay-day of around $20 million dollars.
In 2015 and ’16, McGregor is thought to have made the UFC somewhere in excess of £100 million. It’s hard to think that just a matter of years ago Conor was in such a massively different place.
Between 2008 and 2013, Conor was training in a freezing cold gym in Dublin picking up around 100 euros a fight on the low ranking MMA scene, his longtime coach, John Kavanagh told the Irish Independent.
Well it wasn’t easy. Conor was on the dole, earning €100 a fight and training at the height of winter in a cold gym. Now, I don’t care how passionate you are, but there are always going to be periods thinking ‘Fuck this! What am I doing here?’
Conor’s annual earnings for that five-year period was something like €1,500 a year. There was no money and I was running out of ideas. The UFC was a closed shop.
Round that up and we can see that Conor picked up €7,500 over a five year period which equates to around £6,700. Now to put things into perspective, the average yearly salary in the UK at the minute is £26,000 per annum. McGregor was taking £6,700 every five years from fights alone.
Now I’ve played a lot of sport, but I honestly cannot imagine what strength of mind it took to keep going through all those icy nights in Straight Blast and through all of those poorly paid fights. Getting beat up for pennies is one cruel way to make a living.
In the opening few months of 2013 McGregor was starting to turn heads after becoming a two-weight Cage Warriors champion and winning seven fights on the trot but the UFC just didn’t seem to care.
McGregor was then offered a €1,000 (£900) a month contract from another promoter but Kavanagh urged Conor not to sign.
I begged him not to sign. I literally ripped the deal away from him.
Shortly afterwards, the UFC got in touch and offered Conor the opportunity to fight Marcus Brimage in Sweden.
On the way to the airport Kavanagh pulled their car over at the dole office so Conor could pick up his allowance. This would be the last time he’d be taking dole money.
McGregor knocked Brimage out in 67 seconds and took home $16,000 for the fight and another $60,000 for knockout of the night.
In his post-fight interview McGregor took hold of the microphone and yelled: ‘Dana, 60 G’s Baby!’.
And look at him now.
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.