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Saturday 10 December 2016

McGregor tested by Mendes but lands knock-out blow

ON the eve of his biggest battle, Conor McGregor (pictured) insisted that he had turned the Ultimate Fighting Championships into 'The McGregor Show'. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, he delivered the most barnstorming episode yet to confirm that this is indeed his show, his world.

He left the MGM Grand with a belt around his waist after hauling himself off the canvas to knock out Chad Mendes and claim the interim featherweight title. It was a triumph that ranked as the finest in McGregor's meteoric young career.

"It has been a hell of a ride. Just over two years I've been here. I've just about broken every record in the game," said McGregor afterwards. "Trust me when I tell you there is a lot of work involved. I have been home for 19 days this year. I have constantly been working, constantly promoting this fight as well as keeping on top of my weight and skill level. It's a crazy game and I absolutely love it. This was my belt. This was my night."

But for many moments in the headline fight of UFC 189, it looked as though this might not have been his night. McGregor was tested more in two rounds by Mendes than he had been in the past two years.

Time and again he was taken to the canvass and had his wrestling abilities given a serious examination. For the first time in his UFC career, he was bloodied when a Mendes elbow split open an eyelid. But he rose to his feet and rose to new heights when he delivered a wicked left that landed plum on Mendes's chin.

"I didn't feel threatened," insisted McGregor afterwards as the Irish hordes went off into the Vegas night in celebration. "They try and find holes, they try and find questions that I have yet to answer, they try and find something that is going to break me. But I always prevail."

The triumph will send McGregor back towards Jose Aldo, the Brazilian champion who he was originally supposed to meet here before he pulled out through injury.

Having broken all imaginable records in Las Vegas on Saturday, the challenge is to make the next episode of the McGregor Show just as riveting.

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