Holly Holm kicked the door wide open in 2015, as did Rafael dos Anjos and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, all three emerging as new champions in their respective divisions, but there was one fighter that unwaveringly took the mixed martial arts world by storm… Conor McGregor.
When MMAWeekly.com polled its readers to find out who they felt was the 2015 Fighter of the Year, there were no surprises. McGregor easily bested the field, winning a full 50-percent of the vote. Following her upset of the previously unbeatable Ronda Rousey, in addition to defeating Marion Reneau and Raquel Pennington in 2015, Holm was the next closest competitor with 24-percent of the vote, but then the totals fell off drastically.
McGregor made a lot of noise in 2013 and 2014, climbing his way up the UFC featherweight ladder, but it wasn’t until he defeated Dennis Siver in January of 2015 that he ratcheted the Notorious machine into full gear, taking aim at then-champion Jose Aldo.
Despite rolling over his first five UFC opponents, including his decimation of Siver, when the UFC granted McGregor’s wish to challenge Aldo at UFC 189 in July, many onlookers claimed the brash Irishman had mostly talked his way int the fight.
That was probably partially true. But he didn’t stop talking all the way through an unrivaled world tour that he embarked on with Aldo to promote the fight. He clearly got under the champion’s skin on several occasions.
Just before their fight, however, Aldo had to withdraw due to a rib injury. McGregor, however, would not be denied. Instead of waiting it out to fight Aldo, he accepted an interim championship fight with Chad Mendes, a powerful wrestling-based fighter. The type of fighter that many had criticized both McGregor and the UFC for avoiding.
McGregor had early trouble against Mendes, getting taken to the mat, but he weathered the storm and ended up stopping him with brutal body shots followed by a ground and pound assault with just 3 seconds left in the second round.
He then took the next few months off from the cage, coaching opposite Urijah Faber on The Ultimate Fighter before finally getting the fight with Aldo at UFC 194 in December.
Despite more than a year in the making, the fight was over in a matter of seconds.
Aldo insisted that McGregor wasn’t in his head, but when they squared off in the Octagon, the Brazilian champion uncharacteristically rushed across the cage, as did McGregor, both throwing punches. It would be McGregor that landed the finishing blow a mere 13 seconds into the fight.
He became the first fighter to defeat Aldo in more than a decade, putting him face down on the canvas in record time.
Rolling through the opposition, becoming only the second 145-pound champion in UFC history, and breaking records left and right, McGregor easily ran away with the voting to become the MMAWeekly.com Reader’s Choice for 2015 Fighter of the Year.