LAS VEGAS — For years, Conor McGregor predicted he would be the UFC featherweight champion.
On Saturday night in Las Vegas, the prediction came true. And it did so in stunning fashion as McGregor, the fastest-rising star in UFC history, knocked out long-reigning champion Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds to capture the belt at UFC 194.
It was a left hand that did it. The left, constantly the source of McGregor's greatest wins, helped him score his biggest on this night. Aldo rushed in to try strikes of his own, but McGregor deftly stepped backward and clipped the now-former champion with a left hook. Aldo fell flat on his face. McGregor leaped and landed two massive hammer fists before the referee was able to push him away. Aldo was unconscious.
McGregor's knockout was the fastest title-fight victory in UFC history. It thrilled the multiple thousands of fans who traveled from Ireland to cheer on McGregor. They filled the casinos, the streets and the bars. They sang songs and raised the Irish tricolor flag, and when the moment came, they were able to celebrate the exact thing they'd traveled all this way to see.
It was the culmination of a rivalry between Aldo and McGregor that commenced earlier this year. It all began with a world tour that started in Rio de Janeiro and ended with McGregor snatching Aldo's belt away in front of screaming Dubliners. The UFC, betting big on McGregor's stardom, spared no expense in promoting what would be the biggest featherweight fight in history and one of the UFC's all-time greats.
McGregor, constantly a barb in Aldo's side, was supposed to challenge the champion in July. But days before the fight, Aldo was injured and forced to pull out. McGregor went out and knocked out Chad Mendes, ensuring the fight with Aldo would go on as planned.
Afterward, McGregor gave Aldo praise for the first time.
"Jose was an incredible champion. He deserved to go a little bit longer. But I believe that precision beats power, and that's what you saw," McGregor said. "Nobody can take that left hand shot."
Aldo told Joe Rogan that it wasn't much of a fight and said he would like a rematch. But McGregor has said he intends to go up to lightweight after the fight. The coming months will tell if he intends to keep that promise, but a rematch between the two would certainly be intriguing.