Conor McGregor is undoubtedly the most famous MMA fighter of all time, and there are very few things left unsaid about him. His every move inside and outside of the cage has been closely followed. But today, we will look only at what made him so popular in the first place: Conor McGregor’s fighting style.
McGregor is a dynamic southpaw striker with a lethal left cross. He expertly blends his background in boxing with a karate-like stance, movement, kicks, and exceptional range control.
Like any successful mixed martial artist, Conor McGregor has a diverse skillset, borrowing moves and concepts from many different martial arts styles. Let’s see what made his meteoric rise in the UFC possible.
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Conor McGregor has always been a lethal striker in the Octagon. Still, his style has significantly changed since storming the UFC featherweight division to his most recent fights against Dustin Poirier.
Many have noted the Irishman has fallen in love with his power and adopted a full-on boxing style in his recent fights. Unfortunately, leaving behind most of the elements that made him so successful. In light of that, we will analyze his fighting style during his very successful run at featherweight and capturing the title at lightweight.
The Notorious fought as a very dynamic striker in his early days in the UFC. Where some fighters stick to the main principles of their base martial art, Conor used a beautiful blend of diverse techniques to create a style of his own.
He was a master of range, movement, and counterattacks. His fluid southpaw fighting style revolved mainly around setting up his lethal left, which became synonymous with knockouts.
Conor McGregor’s Martial Arts History
The young Irishman first found a way to channel his aggression through boxing. He trained at his local Crumlin boxing club, competed in the ring until he was 17, and even won some minor local titles. In 2007, aged 18, Conor made his amateur debut. A year later, he started training in the SBG gym in Dublin under John Kavanagh.
The Irishman does not have proper formal training in other styles than boxing, but as Conor said to SB Nation in 2013, “I’ll train in any style. I always love to learn. I always look at everything. I spend all day looking at videos or in the gym working on the things that I’ve seen.”
“I started out doing some kickboxing and boxing, then a little Capoeira, Tae Kwon Do, and Karate. The human body can move in many ways, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Based on his words and the variety of techniques he used, it’s safe to say that Conor McGregor is a true mixed martial artist. Calling him a specific stylist is a gross generalization.
When we consider the success of his left hand and that out of his 19 knockouts, the vast majority have come via punches; it’s easy to see why we would consider Conor to be the best at boxing.
He even competed in the sport against one of the greatest of all time, Floyd Mayweather. Floyd knocked out McGregor in the 10th, but if we have to be fair, he did perform better than some of Mayweather’s past opponents who were boxing world champions.
In striking, the Notorious employs a variety of techniques. His upright and bladed stance is a direct transition from karate, as are his side kicks and his snapping roundhouse kicks.
Some of his flashier kicks, like the jumping roundhouse and tornado kick, are often used in taekwondo. Conor does not shy away from even borrowing techniques from capoeira.
Conor always shone on the feet and never really showed much on the ground. Most of his losses came by submission, but he is a brown belt in BJJ, which also shows he is a competent grappler.
A great video highlighting his different techniques can be seen here:
The Best Elements Of McGregor’s Fighting Style?
Throughout his career, Conor adopted a wide and upright karate-style stance. The benefits of that stance are that it allows for swift movements in and out.
McGregor always dictated the distance of the fight due to his exceptional understanding of range and reach advantage at featherweight. While using this stance and style of fighting, Conor looked truly unstoppable.
By far, the best weapon of Conor is his left hand. As a southpaw, it is his power hand, and he utilizes it in multiple ways, all devastating to his foes.
Coupled with his wide stance and superior range control, Conor often put his opponents on the end of his left straight, responsible for many of his knockouts. But he also used it as a hook, an overhand, or a deadly uppercut if the opponents presented this as a viable option.
The Notorious left was even more dangerous on the defensive. His pull counters were exceptional, and he managed to land them on every opponent he faced. Conor even succeeded with pull counters against opponents who had the reach advantage, like Nate Diaz.
McGregor also loves to cross-counter incoming right hands, whether jabs or crosses. The third counter Conor often used was the slip and rip with his left.
And don’t forget about his deadly intercepting left or the famous punch he used to stiffen the legendary Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds.
Conor McGregor’s kicking game was very karate-oriented early on. Starting from his stance and extending to the type of roundhouse kicks he threw, one might mistake Conor for a lifelong karate practitioner.
He used a lot of side kicks as well as front push kicks to pressure his opponents. The snapping push kick was also often used as a stopper.
The Irishman’s karate hook kicks, taekwondo tornados, and capoeira spinning heel kicks were usually not the show stoppers but kept his opponents guessing. Some flashy techniques occasionally hurt the foe, at least enough to distract them from opening up for his sniper left hand.
Despite what Conor has done in his later career inside the cage and in real life when he was hungry, sharp, and laser-focused, Conor McGregor was a sight to behold. His fighting style was a true pleasure to watch for striking aficionados.
Because of his countless controversies, many people forget how good he really was. Still, pre-Khabib Conor McGregor should be studied by any aspiring striker.