The fight game is a complex environment where a multitude of attributes can determine success or failure, and Conor McGregor has proven to be a quick study to the finer points of combat sports.
There is no doubt that talent is ultimately what matters when the cage door closes—something the 26-year-old Irishman has in spades—but there are other elements that can elevate a fighter's profile in rapid fashion. Those who grasp the importance of self-promotion seem to have a foot up on their peers, and the athletes then can generate even more attention. Furthermore, a fighter who can back up their talk can propel themselves to the forefront of the sport, and "The Notorious" has walked the proverbial walk every step of the way.
The John Kavanagh-trained fighter has been dominant in his two showings under the UFC banner, as he's picked up back-to-back victories over solid competition. Those wins have allowed the Dublin native to move steadily up the ranks, but his ability to command the attention of the MMA community have him toeing the line of stardom on the sport's most visible stage.
Yet, while McGregor calling out the entire top-10 collective of the featherweight division and engaging in various Twitter beefs have captivated an audience, it's the notion that the Straight Blast Gym representative is marching to the beat of his own drum that truly sets him apart from the pack at 145 pounds.
Like most athletes who are under the spotlight, McGregor's self-confidence pushes the boundary between assured and cocky, but it is all a matter of perspective where he's concerned. In McGregor's eyes, he knows where he wants to be and is determined to get there by any means, and anyone currently fighting in the UFC who is not working toward those same goals bewilder him. McGregor believes every step should mean something, and he's determined to make each and every one he takes inside the Octagon count to the fullest.
"I'm not sure where it comes from really, it just seems like the right way to be," McGregor told Bleacher Report in regard to his perspective. "I'm in it to win it and I don't think a lot these other fighters are. It may seem like they are, but a lot of them aren't. It just feels right to be like this. I don't actually know where it came from...it's just the way I feel.
"I suppose this competitive drive has always been in me, but I just don't see anything that impresses me around here with any of these people. I don't know when this attitude started, but none of these guys are on my level. That's just me commenting on what I see. None of these guys have what I have. None of these guys move like I move."
When the rising star steps in for his next challenge against Diego Brandao at Fight Night 46 on July 19, there will be a potential storm of hovering circumstances. In addition to The Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner being the most seasoned test he will have faced inside the Octagon, the bout taking place—and headlining—the UFC's long-awaited return to Dublin has the anticipation meter registering on overload status.
Five years will have passed since the UFC last hosted an event at Dublin's O2 Arena, and McGregor is the man responsible for the organization's return to Ireland being such a high-profile affair. The brash Irishman has made a solid amount of noise since his promotional debut back in April of 2013 and convinced the promotion to put the weight of the Irish market square on his shoulders.
That scenario can certainly present a unique amount of pressure, but McGregor wouldn't have it any other way.
"Pressure creates diamonds my friend," McGregor said. "This is a historic moment for my nation and I'm looking to grab it with both hands.
"This means everything to me. No matter what goes on and what happens; nobody can take this away from me. Nobody can deny what I've done in the time that I've done it. I'm only warming up here, and I'm just getting started. This definitely means everything to me. This is what I set out to do. I set out to bring the UFC back to Ireland. I set out to headline. I set out to get my teammates on. I set out to show the Irish public what true martial arts were all about. And here we are just a few days out."
While facing the Brazilian powerhouse will present several interesting challenges, McGregor will also be dealing with an extended layoff due to injury. The scrappy featherweight damaged his knee in his win over Max Holloway last August and took to the sidelines to recover and rehabilitate from the surgery that was necessary to correct the torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
Just south of one year will have passed when he squares off with Brandao, but McGregor is confident he's in proper shape to get the job done in front of his hometown crowd. Not only does he believe his skills have largely improved since his last showing under the bright lights of the UFC banner, but McGregor also feels what he's about to bring to Brandao will be too much for the 27-year-old to handle.
"I feel strong...I feel calm and prepared in my body and mind," McGregor said. "I feel great right now and everything has just happened perfectly. The timing is just perfect for this and I couldn't be more prepared right now.
"[Diego] throws everything he throws just a bit too slow. He throws his shots too eager and there is no pop in them. They are forced and he pushes his shots. He doesn't pop them like I pop them. I also think he's going to feel pressure like he's never felt before when the bell rings. People are saying he has a good first round and gets tired after that, but he's going to be up against it from the start.
"I'm going to be hunting him down in a way that he's never felt before and I'm going to keep it up until he crumbles and gives in," he added. "Make sure you subscribe to UFC Fight Pass and tune in for this fight my friends."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.