LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Conor McGregor, who stands to make up to $100 million (78.13 million pounds) from Saturday’s boxing match against Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas, is not known for his humility, but the Irishman certainly hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
When the 29-year-old mixed martial arts champion recently bought a yacht he named it “188,” after the number of euros he used to receive as a social welfare payment from the Irish government as recently as four years ago.
Back then, few could have dreamed of the fame and untold riches that combat sports would bring him, but McGregor — who calls himself “Mystic Mac” due to his ability to predict the outcome of his fights — never doubted himself.
Born in a working-class suburb of Dublin, McGregor began boxing at an early age before moving towards the burgeoning new sport of mixed martial arts as a teenager.
His rise as a fighter under the banner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship may seem meteoric, but an early loss as a young pro almost caused him to walk away from the sport.
His mother intervened and asked his coach, John Kavanagh, to encourage him not to give up. Kavanagh, who made a point of never chasing athletes to beg them to come back, made an exception for the brash McGregor.
Luckily for all concerned, it worked out.
McGregor suffered another loss against compatriot Joe Duffy, but then embarked on a winning streak in the Cage Warriors promotion that saw him win the featherweight and lightweight belts there.
Irish fight fans took to Twitter to campaign for a UFC contract for their rising star, and when promotion kingpin Dana White relented in 2013, McGregor was finally in the stable of the biggest show in the game.
He tore through the UFC featherweight division, winning his first seven fights and culminating in a stunning 13-second knockout of Brazilian Jose Aldo, a victory which saw him crowned the organisation’s featherweight champion.
In a sport struggling to find new heroes, he quickly became the UFC’s biggest draw, and they were more than happy to accommodate his seemingly boundless ambition.
He set his sights on the lightweight belt, but when then-champion Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of their title fight due to injury, McGregor’s career hit its first major obstacle.
Californian Nate Diaz was drafted to replace dos Anjos, and he promptly submitted the Irishman in the second round of a welterweight bout after McGregor tired himself out throwing huge left hands looking for another spectacular knockout.
McGregor put all thoughts of the lightweight title aside, demanding and getting a rematch against Diaz that turned into an epic five-round war of attrition that the Irishman edged on the scorecards of the judges.
Having had his revenge on Diaz, McGregor turned his attention to Eddie Alvarez, who had taken over the lightweight title, and was booked to meet him in the main event at the UFC’s first event in New York in over 20 years.
McGregor did not disappoint, rocking Alvarez early and going on to win the fight via second round TKO to become the first UFC fighter to hold two belts simultaneously.
With his bank balance growing but nothing that appealed to him in mixed martial arts, McGregor then took aim at Mayweather, one of the greatest names in combat sports history.
A deal was done and he can now look forward to a payday that should give him financial security for the rest of his life.
Brash and profane, yet often thoughtful and intensely loyal, McGregor has a small, tight team around him that prepares him for his fights.
Regardless of what happens against Mayweather he will head to Spain with his family to celebrate the wedding of a friend and to spend some time on his yacht.
But neither he nor his team are in Las Vegas to provide Mayweather with another big purse - throughout his career McGregor has aimed to make combat sports history, and the next stop on that journey is the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday.
Reporting by Philip O'Connor; Editing by Frank Pingue