26 Business Lessons from Conor McGregor

By paulchittenden

More...

Conor McGregor The Greatest of All Time

Photo via Andrius Petrucenia | CC BY-SA 2.0

Conor McGregor. The GOAT. 

You can argue all day about who is the greatest pound for pound fighter in MMA. Georges St.-Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones are all contenders for that namesake.

But Conor McGregor is the ultimate GOAT when it comes to the MMA game. He’s got it figured out and has the star power and lifetime earnings to prove it. 

Conor clearly has an “it-factor” that sets him apart from other fighters. In fact, Dana White called it upon their very first meeting. The story, told on Tony Robbins’ podcast goes like this.

Dana White was in Ireland, where he says he likes to spend time in the pubs. People kept talking to him about this Conor McGregor kid.

Sometime later he brings Conor out to Las Vegas for dinner. He’s never watched a single one of Conor’s fights.

After dinner, he calls Lorenzo Fertitta and says:

Dana White 

On Conor McGregor


“Holy shit! I don’t know if this kid can fight, but if he can even throw a punch, he is going to be the biggest star anybody’s ever seen!”

Photo via Andrius Petrucenia | CC BY-SA 2.0

Dana said it was something about him. McGregor's laugh. His personality. He knew he was special from that first meeting.

But what sets Conor apart? How did he go from plumber’s apprentice on welfare to the biggest star in UFC history?

After tons of research, I’m going to tell you just that. I've learned 26 Business Lessons from Conor McGregor. Read on to learn exactly how Conor McGregor became a superstar, and possibly, use some of his techniques to become more successful in your own endeavors.

Who are the Highest Paid MMA Fighters?

According to Statista, Conor McGregor leads the UFC in career fighter’s purse earnings:

Highest Paid UFC Fighters

However, these figures only take into account what he gets paid to show up. Not his PPV share or sponsorship earnings. Also, notice 3 of the fighters on the list are only there because they fought McGregor.

Conor McGregor revealed to Ariel Helwani his actual earnings for his latest two fights ($50 million for UFC 229 vs. Khabib and an estimated $80 million for UFC 246 vs. Cerrone).

NotoriusMMA 80 Million Payday

Jon Jones and Jorge Masdival have made recent headlines complaining of fighter pay. Hell, they see what the Irishman is making, of course they are complaining.

But look at the PPV buys. Masdival did hit the top 10, but only in his latest fight which came after the dispute was initiated. Jones, considered one of the best fighters to step in the ring, didn’t even hit the top 20.

Combat Sports PPV Buys

Event

Fighters

Date

PPV Buy Rate

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao

05/02/2015

4,600,000

UFC 229

Khabib vs. McGregor

10/06/2018

2,400,000

The One

Mayweather vs. Canelo

09/14/2013

2,200,000

UFC 202

Diaz vs. McGregor II

08/20/2016

1,600,000

Mayweather vs. Cotto

Mayweather vs. Cotto

05/05/2012

1,500,000

UFC 196

McGregor vs. Diaz I

03/05/2016

1,317,000

UFC 205

Alvarez vs. McGregor

11/12/2016

1,300,000

UFC 100

Jon Fitch vs. Paulo Thiago

07/11/2009

1,300,000

UFC 251

Usman vs. Masdival

07/11/2020

1,300,000

UFC 194

Aldo vs. McGregor

12/12/2015

1,200,000

UFC 116

Lesnar vs. Carwin

07/03/2010

1,160,000

UFC 207

Nunes vs. Rousey

12/30/2016

1,100,000

UFC 193

Rousey vs. Holm

11/14/2015

1,100,000

UFC 114

Jackson vs. Evans

05/29/2010

1,050,000

UFC 92

Evans vs. Griffin

12/27/2008

1,050,000

UFC 121

Lesnar vs. Velasquez

10/23/2010

1,050,000

UFC 168

Weidman vs. Silva II

12/28/2013

1,025,000

UFC 91

Couture vs. Lesnar

11/15/2008

1,010,000

UFC 200

Tate vs. Nunes

07/09/2016

1,009,000

UFC 246

McGregor vs. Cerrone

01/18/2020

1,000,000

UFC 158

St-Pierre vs. Diaz

03/16/2013

950,000

McGregor is simply the biggest draw in UFC history. Conor isn’t complaining about pay, is he?

This isn’t a knock on other fighters or to say fighters do not deserve to be paid more. 

This is simply showing that Conor’s star power, his ability to build interest in his fights, and his demonstrated huge PPV numbers, has given him significant leverage.

It is rumored that Conor is now a billionaire. He made $100,000,000 million for a crossover fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.. His whiskey company, Proper 12, reportedly generated a billion dollars in its first year.

Conor has capitalized on his brand unlike any other in the sport.

Want to skip the timeline and go directly to the the business lessons? Follow the links here:


Table of Contents


How did Conor McGregor Rise to Fame?

Conor Mcgregor was born July 14th, 1988. He spent most of his youth in Crumlin, a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. As a kid, Conor’s love was soccer, but like many kids living in rough neighborhoods, Conor was bullied. He joined Crumlin Boxing Club at the age of 12 to learn to defend himself (Lesson 1 - Find a Need in the Market that Needs Filling).

In 2006, Conor moved to Lucan, Dublin. He later finished school and started a plumbing apprenticeship. During his time in Lucan, he met Tom Egan, a future UFC fighter and set his sights on MMA.

McGregor joined Straight Blast Gym in 2007 training under John Kavanagh winning his first amateur fight that same year (Lesson 2 - Find Your Passion & Lesson 3 - Find a Mentor).

In 2008, Conor met Dee Devlin, his long time girlfriend, which he later married. Conor often says that he would not have made it without Dee. She supported him in the worst of times. She worked as a waitress adding her wages to Conor’s weekly ~$215 USD unemployment check to ensure Conor was focused solely on MMA (Lesson 4 - Surround Yourself with the Right People & Lesson 5 - Intense Focus on Your Craft).

McGregor went 4-2 in his first six professional fights. After his Cage Warriors loss to Joe Duffy, Conor went on to win his next 8 fights, becoming double champ, holding the Cage Warriors Featherweight and Lightweight championships simultaneously.

Sometime during his 4-2 record, Conor was feeling down due to these two defeats. He credits his sister recommending a book called The Secret for changing his perspective and the ability will himself into a champion. A rich and famous champion (Lesson 6 - Visualization).

When Conor defeated Dave Hill to win the Cage Warriors Featherweight World Title, he said, "I feel like I had this belt from day one. I visualized it me head. I saw it in me head, and now I am standing here.”

As the first double champ in the Cage Warriors organization, McGregor was already getting into the heads of his opponents in these early fights (Lesson 7 - Understand Your Competition) as seen in early staredown footage.

The Secret Book Rhonda Byrne

Shortly after, he had his first meeting with Dana White as described above. Dana knew he was destined for stardom. (Lesson 8 - Be an Entertainer)

conor mcgregor enters the ufc

McGregor’s first fight in the UFC was with Marcus Brimmage. He walked to the ring with the Irish flag draped upon his shoulders (Lesson 9 - Find Your 1000 True Fans). McGregor dispatched Brimmage in remarkable fashion in the first round. After the fight, McGregor said, “It’s new, it’s like the WWE to me. It’s a little game.” (Lesson 10 - Discover Your Opponent's Weaknesses)

His next fight with Max Holloway ended in another McGregor win via decision.

McGregor’s next 3 fights vs. Brandao, Poirier, & Silver were won by stoppage via punches and ground and pound. McGregor is becoming one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC (Lesson 11 - Discover What Sets You Apart from the Crowd).

Here’s the thing, Mcgregor is winning and is great with the media. The UFC is smart. They know this, and they start putting the full UFC marketing machine behind McGregor at full speed ahead, such as the Ultimate Fighter Season 22 coaching stint (Lesson 12 - Understand What Drives Your Industry).

Mcgregor goes on to win the Vacant UFC Interim Featherweight Championship vs Mendes after a last minute pull out by Aldo due to injury (Lesson 13 - Take Your Shot). McGregor fights the reigning champion for the featherweight title by defeating Jose Aldo in a stunning 13 seconds (Lesson 14 - Precision Beats Power, Timing Beats Speed).

Ultimate Fighter Season 22

After Rafael dos Anjos cancels due to a broken foot, Nate Diaz steps up on 11 day’s notice to fight Conor at welterweight. This huge fight was a huge promotional success and raised the stock of both fighters, but Conor was defeated by submission due to rear naked choke (Lesson 15 - Ask for What You Want).

Mcgregor vs. Diaz 2 becomes the 2nd highest-grossing event in UFC history with 1.6 million PPV buys. Mcgregor avenges his loss via decision (Lesson 16 - Rivalries are Opportunities & Lesson 17 - Learn From Your Mistakes). 

Mcgregor goes on to defeat Eddie Alvarez, securing the Lightweight Championship belt, and becoming the first double champ in UFC history (Lesson 18 - Make History).

When Conor’s fame is at an all-time high, he angles for a fight with Floyd Mayweather in a crossover boxing match (Lesson 19 - Leverage Other People's Audiences, Lesson 20 - Know Your Numbers, & Lesson 21 - Negotiate Like a Pro).

A worldwide promotional tour ensues (Lesson 22 - Spend More Time Promoting).

McGregor fights the #1 greatest boxer of all time. Conor loses in the 10th round via TKO.

This event is the second highest-grossing boxing match of all time, surpassed only by Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.

Conor Mcgregor launches his own whiskey line, Proper 12, one month before his next fight (Lesson 23 - Diversify with Multiple Revenue Streams).

Conor’s next fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov goes down in history as one of the biggest rivalries in UFC history. The bad blood started when Khabib got into an altercation with Conor’s teammate Artem Lobov. Conor gets word of this and hops on a private plane with his team. They land in New York during fight week and find Khabib on the bus along with all the other fighters as they are heading back to the fighters hotel. Conor’s and his teammates throw a dolly, garbage cans, and railings at the bus, injuring several fighters.

McGregor vs. Khabib goes on to be the highest-selling UFC fight of all time (Lesson 24 - There is no Such Thing as Bad Publicity). The bad blood is real. Conor ends up losing the fight, and a brawl ensues as Khabib jumps the octagon fencing to fight Conor’s coaching staff while his team tries to fight Conor. Absolute madness. 

McGregor vs. Khabib goes on to be the highest-selling UFC fight of all time (Lesson 24). The bad blood is real. Conor ends up losing the fight, and a brawl ensues as Khabib jumps the octagon fencing to fight Conor’s coaching staff while his team tries to fight Conor. Absolute madness. 

In Conor’s return to the Octagon, he defeats Donald Cerrone 40 seconds into Round 1 (Lesson 25 - Forward Momentum Propels You Forward).

McGregor announced his retirement, but everyone thinks he’s just waiting until he can pull another big money fight (Lesson 26 - Be Willing to Walk Away).

Conor Mcgregor Knowledge Bombs

26 Business Lessons from Conor McGregor

Lesson 1 - Find a Need in the Market that Needs Fulfilling

When Conor moved to a new suburb, he lost his group of friends and had to start over. As the new guy, he got in his share of fights. Without a group of friends to back him up, he needed to learn to fight so he could protect himself. With boxing training, any potential attackers might find themselves getting more than they’ve bargained for and decide to pick on an easier target.

Crumlin Boxing Club fulfilled that need for Conor, and initiated his journey to superstardom.

McGregor-Boxing-Club-Crumlin

In business, you need to find a need with your particular audience. Fulfill that need and buyers will come to you. 

Let’s take boxing gyms as an example. 

In a rough neighborhood, you’ll find “real” boxing gyms. The boxers here come to learn how to truly fight and even compete. 

In “upper-class” neighborhoods, you’ll find more cardio based boxing gyms. The goal at these gyms are more for exercise than actual fighting. You won’t see too many sparring sessions at these gyms.

Both models are successful. Understand your market.

Lesson 2 - Find Your Passion. Try new things

McGregor and Egan, while opposites, met in high school both enjoyed MMA. They watched UFC broadcasts on weekends together. It was Egan who sparked Conor’s interest in MMA. 

Conor started dabbling in both MMA and boxing, and eventually, left boxing for his true love of MMA. With this focus, Conor went on to dominate the MMA scene.

In business, even the best entrepreneurs can get burnt out. If you look at Elon Musk, Richard Branson, or Steve Jobs, they are all extremely passionate about what they do.

They can and do put in the hours to become the best in their niches. When they speak, you hear the passion and feel drawn to their cause.

It’s hard to be tremendously successful if you hate what you do. 

Mark Twain Quote

Lesson 3 - Find a Mentor to Increase the Likelihood and Decrease the Time to Success

Although they were around the same age, Tom Egan made it to the UFC first. Conor saw his pal in the UFC, and knew that he had a chance too. The impossible became possible and no longer just a dream.

In business, you need to find a mentor who is ahead of you. Mentors can help you avoid big mistakes. 

More importantly, mentors show you what is possible and can create a complete level change in your game.

Lesson 4 - Surround Yourself with People That Want You to Succeed & Will Support You. Stay Loyal to Them.

Dee Devlin has been by Conor’s side since the beginning. She supported him when he was a nobody. 

She believed in him.

Dee experienced all of the ups and downs on the path to fame. They grew together.

When you become rich and famous, people try to take advantage of you. It becomes harder to find true friends and romantic partners. Conor avoided this and married the girl who helped him get to where he is now.

Let’s face it, some successful entrepreneurs did not have this support system. They were doubted, laughed at even. This doubt fueled their desire to succeed. 

Even so, these entrepreneurs eventually built teams which were so inspired by the entrepreneur’s vision, they eventually do build these supportive relationships.

If you do have this support system, remember who was there supporting you from the beginning. True friendships are an important foundation for happiness as you become more successful.

Lesson 5 - Intense Focus on Your Craft | Decide on What You Want and Put 100% Focus Into It

Not only did Dee Devlin give Conor emotional and moral support, she financially supported him as well. She waited tables so that Conor could focus 100% on his training. She helped him buy healthier foods to fuel his body.

Conor was naturally talented. Adding in 100% focus to his training allowed him to accelerate his skills much quicker.

Most people are juggling too many things. Spending hours playing Call of Duty, late nights drinking, dreaming instead of doing, are taking time away from honing your craft.

The best of the best are practicing. They are making sales calls. In the studio. 

With 100% focus and persistence, you will eventually make it.

Intense Focus


Lesson 6 - The Law of Attraction | Visualizing Yourself to Greatness

Conor attributes the use of visualization and the Law of Attraction to manifest his way to becoming a champion.

You Will See Me In the UFC - Conor McGregor 2008 Quote

This all sounds kind of crazy, but the same technique has been cited by Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey, plus dozens of athletes and mega celebrities including, Kobe Bryant, Cristiano Ronaldo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lindsey Vonn, Tony Robbins, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Will Smith, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West,.

What is the Law of Attraction?

The Law of Attraction is a belief that a person’s thoughts and focus bring positive or negative experiences into the person’s life.

Conor’s sister Erin, a bodybuilder and fitness model, recommended he read The Secret, a book on the Law of Attraction. He opted for the DVD version.

The Secret Book Rhonda Byrne

"Even when I first watched it, I was like, this is bulls--t," McGregor told Bleacher Report in 2015.

But after watching it, something clicked. Conor and Dee started using it to visualize little things, like getting the front parking spots. After seeing it work, he went on to visualize himself as a champion. In fact, his family credits the moment he watched The Secret, as the birth of Conor McGregor, the superstar.

Lesson 7 - Fight IQ | Get a Deep Understanding of Your Competition

In his first UFC post fight interview, he clearly said that he thought Brimmage was emotional and would overthrow his shots. Conor fully understands there is the game before the game.

McGregor’s fight IQ is off the charts. 

All fighters watch films of previous fights. Try to find subtle tells. They begin each fight carefully, trying to figure out distance and timing.

Watching Conor, it almost looks intuitive. It seems that he knows his opponents better than they know themselves.

This is most evident after the Aldo fight. Video is released of McGregor practicing the exact sequence that dispatched the 10-year winning streak of the champion.

After the fight, Conor said he saw a subtle tell before the bell rang. Aldo’s right hand was twitching. He knew Aldo was going to unload a big right hand that would set up his left hand knockout punch. Seriously, watch the video below. Mystic Mac believes in the power of visualization.

Lesson 8  - Be an entertainer. Stand for Something. Be Polarizing. People Will Love You or Hate You & That’s Not Bad.

Dana White knew Conor McGregor was going to be a star the very first time they met. Why?

Dana said it was his personality. His laugh. 

What else is underneath this?

Conor McGregor had a clear focus to become UFC Champion and become rich and famous. He had an outlandish personality. He was witty. He would entertain the masses.

I’ve never met Conor McGregor in person, but from most reports from fans and casuals alike, McGregor is a completely different person outside of the ring. 

A nice and pleasant guy.

Is the UFC Conor McGregor just a persona?

Who else had success in the UFC with an outlandish and polarizing personality?

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Chael Sonnen
  • Michael Bisping
  • The Diaz Brothers

The WWE has perfected this character. They call them the heel. Conor McGregor may or may not be the heel, but he definitely is polarizing, and he is very much like a WWE character.

Love him or hate him, every MMA and boxing fan knows Conor McGregor.

Like the greatest before him, McGregor knows that almost any attention is good attention. 

Step into the MMA forums or a Facebook discussion, and you will see the Conor McGregor haters out in full force.

But guess what, his haters still buy his PPV fights - to see him lose!

If you want to be a public figure, amplify your message. Take who you are, and multiply that by 3X or 10X.

Sure, you want to be authentic. Don’t be someone you’re not. But take it up a notch.

Be exciting. Be an entertainer.

Lesson 9 - Find Your 1000 True Fans | Cater to Your Base 

In his first UFC fight, Conor is seen with an Irish flag draped over his shoulders as he walks to the ring. Before he was a worldwide superstar, Conor worked to become the ambassador of Irish MMA.

In fact, as his stardom grew, it seemed half of Ireland would travel to his fights.

The UFC, having dominated the American MMA market, was ready to move into Europe, and Conor McGregor would carry the entirety of Ireland.

Kevin Kelly, editor at Wired magazine, wrote an essay called “1,000 True Fans.” The essay, a must read, states that all it takes to earn a living as creator is 1,000 true fans who will buy your work.

For McGregor, his fanbase started with his countrymen. As his stardom grew, so did his base of fans.

In business, you have to find your core supporters. The people who will buy your product. The people who will share your content. The people that love your product or service so much they have to tell their friends about it.

Find your Ireland and grow from there.

Lesson 10 - Fighting is a Mind Game | Discover Your Opponent’s Weaknesses

Conor McGregor is a master of getting inside his opponent’s head. Often, his opponents become emotional and abandon their game plan or overextend their shots.f

Many fighters talk trash. Many fighters try to intimidate their opponents. They may even come close to actually fighting during staredowns. But - they don’t completely destroy 8 weeks of game planning the way Conor does.

Before the fight with Dustin Poirier, McGregor said:

First Round KO McGregor Quote

Just as he says, he defeats Poirier by KO in the first round. Mystic Mac is born.

Dustin Poirier is an amazing fighter. As a fellow Louisiana boy, he’s one of my favorites. 

I don’t believe that Dustin was beat in the ring. He was beaten before the fight. 

McGregor baited him. Made him angry. Dustin Poirer didn’t follow his game plan.

Conor’s remarks that this is just a game really sums it all up. After the Dustin Poirier fight, we see McGregor take his head games up a notch. The best example is the fight with Aldo.

Aldo went 10 years without a defeat. Fighters were afraid of him. 

After defeating Dennis Siver, McGregor jumps the Octagon fence and goes straight for Aldo, showing he has no fear of the champion.

The pre-fight insults from McGregor are being hurled at unprecedented speed - expletives, racist comments, attacking the entire Brazilian nation.  But when McGregor steals Aldo's belt, there is one moment when you see the look of defeat on the Brazilian's face.

McGregor raises his hands as if he already knows he’s the champion. Aldo, unable to do anything in the moment, mentally breaks. Maybe it was just a seed of doubt, but McGregor was in his head.

As a small brand, sometimes going after the big guys can be tough. Study your competitor. Find out what they do well and where they are lacking.

No one is perfect. Focus on your competitor's weaknesses. Fill those gaps. Be nimble. Slowly take market share by doing what they cannot.

Lesson 11 - Differentiation - Discover What Sets You Apart from the Crowd

Conor had big dreams. He was already visualizing himself as a massive star. A rich, popular, double champ at that.

How would the double champ act? What would he look like? How would he speak?

Rumors were going around that McGregor was getting easy fights. Maybe it was true. The UFC was investing in his brand to grow the European market. They didn’t want their golden boy to lose yet.

I cannot confirm this through any research, but I’m sure Conor was aware of the UFC’s plans and his role in them.

Instead of denying the matchmaking, McGregor doubles down and talks about his relationship with Lorenzo (one of the owner’s of the UFC). In fact, they even have a tradition of toasting a shot of whiskey after McGregor’s wins.

Irish Toast

McGregor has gone from plumber’s apprentice to UFC star. His Lorenzo comments are positioning him as the employee who is winning and dining with the CEO. Isn’t this the dream of all employees?

Go back to the beginning of Conor’s Instagram. It quickly goes from typical fighter to businessman and luxury everything - clothes, cars, private jets. 

He dons his trademark suits.

Conor is no longer just a fighter. He’s the guy from the rough neighborhood that made it. 

He’s transcended fighter status. He’s different.

In business, marketing and positioning are the key to market domination. 

Your brand, your image, your packaging, your customer service. Are they aligned with your target market?

Lesson 12 - Understand the Machine that Drives Your Industry

McGregor worked hard to build his personal brand. He built his profile, entertaining the masses and winning in spectacular fashion. 

Winning fights gets better fights. But have you noticed that some fighters keep winning but aren’t given a main event? Maybe they are passed over for a title shot? 

Why?

McGregor understood the game. He dove into the machine head on, realizing that putting up big numbers gets you bigger opportunities.

More than anything, the UFC organization is a promotion and hype machine. The UFC’s job is to sell fights, build storylines, and develop fighters.

1 + 1 = 3

Conor understands this. He has fully leveraged the UFC’s marketing powers to 10X his brand. He layers his own marketing on top of the UFC’s efforts.

McGregor took chances. He talked smack. He manufactured beef / rivalry. He won his fights in spectacular fashion, and he built his social media empire to engage his fans.

The UFC brass see this. They know his popularity is growing, so they put even more dollars behind him to promote him. He coaches on the Ultimate Fighter Season 22 against Urijah Faber (another very popular fighter). He gets more popular. He pulls bigger numbers. It’s a never ending cycle for now.

With fame and celebrity comes opportunities. Big names pull big money. Bigger purses. Bigger sponsorship deals. And other opportunities outside the ring.

What is the machine behind your industry? Determine how the big boys in your industry are winning.

Is it their sales team? Is it paid ads? Is it media coverage?

Deconstruct the winners and find your way in.

Lesson 13 - When Opportunity Presents Itself, Take Your Shot

When Aldo was injured, Mendes stepped in on 3 week’s notice to fight for the interim title. 

Both McGregor and Mendes saw the opportunity, McGregor, an interim belt and Mendes the belt plus a McGregor payday, 

While this happens all the time, it is a risk. McGregor was preparing for a different fighter. Mendes didn’t have a full training camp.

In business, opportunities can present themselves at any time. It is up to you to see them and capitalize on them.

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later.” - Richard Branson

Lesson 14 - Precision Beats Power, Timing Beats Speed

A fighter studies their opponent to understand their movement, any tells, and potential holes in their game. Conor does this exceptionally well.

In my first few sparring sessions, my biggest surprise was how fast the more advanced fighter's were. Not their hand speed. It was how fast their mind worked. They saw my punches coming almost before I threw them. They were able to move out of the way and counter with ease. They saw something I didn't see.

A fighter with a high fight IQ has:

  • Precision
  • Timing
  • Efficiency
  • Defense

So far, Conor's only hole is his ground game. Standing up, he has the upper hand. After the Aldo fight, he said this:

Precision Beats Power Timing Beats Speed McGregor Quote

This quote is a great way to think about business.

Precision beats power. Oftentimes, you are competing with the big boys, the entrenched competitors, or the huge multinational corporation. They have power. 

A smaller business can compete with precision. You can serve the customer better. You can offer a more personalized service. You can serve in a profitable capacity, that the big boys are ignoring because it is too small for them. Be precise.

Timing beats speed. Being first to market can help you get first crack at market share, maybe even give you time to build a moat. Yet, timing beats speed. Sometimes it is better to let the first mover establish a market before moving in. You’ll save all the cost of developing the market, and you can learn from their mistakes. Time the market.

Lesson 15 - See the Opportunity & Ask for What You Want

At this point, Conor McGregor basically gets whatever fight he wants. However, Lesson 15 flips the script. This isn’t about McGregor. It is about Nate Diaz.

After Nate Diaz defeated Michael Johnson at UFC Fox 17, he stepped up to the mic and called out Conor McGregor in an expletive filled rant.

This takes us back to another infamous McGregor press conference with reference to “Red Panty Night.”

McGregor Red Panty Night Quote

Conor McGregor brings in huge paydays, and he says a fight with him is cause for celebration. Fighters will make more fighting him than any other fighter on the roster.

Diaz understood this. He saw the opportunity. And he asked for it.

Take a look at Diaz’s earnings:

Nate Diaz Estimated Earnings by Event

Event

Opponent

Estimated Purse

TUF 5 Finale

Manvel Gamburyan

$16,000

UFC Fight Night

Junior Assuncao

$30,000

UFC Fight Night

Alvin Robinson

$70,000

UFC Fight Night

Kurt Pellegrino

$50,000

UFC Fight Night

Josh Neer

$70,000

UFC 94

Clay Guida

$85,000

TUF US vs. UK

Joe Stevenson

$45,000

UFC Fight Night

Melvin Guillard

$78,000

UFC Fight Night

Gray Maynard

$24,000

UFC 111

Rory Markham

$49,000

UFC 118

Marcus Davis

$120,000

UFC 125

Dong Hyun Kim

$33,000

UFC 129

Rory MacDonald

$33,000

UFC 135

Takanori Gomi

$141,000

UFC 141

Donald Cerrone

$149,000

UFC Fight Night

Jim Miller

$147,000

UFC on Fox

Benson Henderson

$50,000

UFC on Fox

Josh Thomson

$15,000

TUF Rousey vs Tate

Gray Maynard

$80,000

UFC on Fox

Rafael dos Anjos

$16,000

UFC on Fox

Michael Johnson

$110,000

UFC 196

Conor McGregor

$620,000

UFC 202

Conor McGregor

$2,070,000

UFC 241

Anthony Pettis

$270,000

UFC 244

Jorge Masdival

$520,000

Diaz’s first fight with Conor McGregor earned him 4X what he made for his previous second highest grossing fight. 

The second fight went on to earn him more in one night than he made his entire UFC career.

Then, his rise in popularity has earned him a noticeable bump in his post McGregor fights.

What can we learn from this? Too many people can spot the opportunity, but don’t have the balls to go for it.

Ask for the meeting. 

Ask for the sale.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. - Wayne Gretzky

Lesson 16 - Rivalries are Opportunities

Nate Diaz was no match for Conor McGregor’s verbal sparring as seen in several pre-fight interviews. But Nate Diaz has his own Stockton “Gangsta” style of dealing with rivalries that fans love.

 After Conor shows up 30 minutes late, Diaz walks out. Diaz’s team throws a water bottle. Things get out of hand.

Rivalries can be great marketing opportunities. This clash no doubt sold more PPV’s.

Take a look at Wendy’s taking a shot at McDonald’s on Twitter.

McDonalds Wendys Twitter Beef

Look at the number of Retweets. Holy crap.

Have some fun. Maybe a rivalry is just the PR stunt you need.

Lesson 17 - Do Not Succumb to Failure. Learn from Your Mistakes. Pivot.

Mcgregor lost to Diaz in their first matchup by submission. Conor analyzed his mistakes in training and particularly his diet. 

He put these learnings to use in their second matchup.

Conor came back and won their second fight by decision, in a grueling 5 round matchup.

In business, we experience failures just like in life. Markets change, regulations change, and unprecedented events such as Covid can derail our plans.

You need to be okay with failure. But don’t let a failure go to waste.

Analyze it. See what when wrong. Find out how you could have changed things. Make a plan not to make that mistake again.

Maybe you need to pivot. Maybe you just need to make some tweaks. Either way, a failure can make your business stronger, if you implement the changes necessary to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Lesson 18 - Make History | Change the Game

In the lead up to the fight with Alvarez, a promo is released, and we hear Conor Mcgregor say:

There has not been a UFC champion in two weight classes at the same time. McGregor was gunning to go down as the first in the UFC record books.

At the same time, he would make history as headlining the first MMA fight in Madison Square Gardens. It was truly a historic moment in the world of MMA.

Riches, fame. It means nothing in the end.

But, history?

That's Why No One Will Remember Your Name

And just like the story of Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile, Conor opened up the door for other champ champs - Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, and Henry Cejudo.

Too many entrepreneurs are doing “me-too” business. Chasing successful businesses in hopes of making some cash.

The true game changers are going big. Trying to change history.

Truly think about what you can do to change the industry, to innovate, to do the impossible.

Lesson 19 - Leverage Other People’s Audiences

Back in 2015, Conor McGregor and Urijah Faber were announced as coaches on the Ultimate Fighter reality show contest.

The same year, video surfaced of a sparring session between Game of Throne’s “The Mountain”

Each of these appearances allowed Conor to utilize other people’s audiences (OPA) to gain additional fans outside of his current fan base. 

The UFC’s Ultimate Fighter series brought in the series’ fans plus fans of Urijah that may not have been fans of Conor and gave them a chance to get to know him over multiple exposures (episodes).

The playful sparring session with The Mountain allowed Conor to gain exposure to the Game of Throne’s audience who followed Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson. He’s appeared on the cover of GQ and appeared on the cover of Call of Duty Infinite Warfare., 

McGregor has also had appearances on Conan O’brien’s Late Night and has sung pub songs with Jimmy Fallon.

Speaking of Conan, did you know 23 celebrities own shares in the UFC? Here they are:

  • Ben Affleck
  • Michael Bay
  • Tom Brady
  • Rob Dyrdek
  • Guy Fieri
  • Flea
  • Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye
  • Calvin Harris
  • Anthony Kiedis
  • Jimmy Kimmel
  • Robert Kraft
  • Adam Levine
  • Li Na
  • LL Cool J
  • Cam Newton
  • Conan O’Brien
  • Trey Parker
  • Tyler Perry
  • Maria Sharapova
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Mark Wahlberg
  • Serena Williams
  • Venus Williams

Now this is a genius move by the UFC. By allowing celebrities to own a piece of the UFC, the UFC knows that they will promote the business to their following, bringing in additional fans that would not normally be watching.

McGregor’s biggest example of leveraging other people’s audiences is his crossover fight with Mayweather. Mayweather is boxing’s greatest fighter ever. Not only does Mayweather have a huge audience, this fight would introduce Conor McGregor to the entire boxing audience.

No matter your industry, you need to know where your customers are. Who has a similar pool of leads in their audience? 

Partner with another complimentary company that shares your audience.

Get a story written about you and your company in your industry’s magazine.

Go where the fish are, but fish with dynamite.

Lesson 20 - Know Your Numbers | What is the Most Profitable Thing in Your Business?

At this point, Conor McGregor is the highest paid fighter in UFC history.

Yet, he is making peanuts compared to the big names in boxing.

Conor realizes this and guns for the biggest name in boxing, Floyd Mayweather. If he can make this happen, it will be the biggest payday in his career.

Know Your Numbers

Similarly, you need to understand your own numbers. Where is the money? 

What product lines are the most profitable? What are the least?

Make decisions based on numbers.

Lesson 21 - Negotiating Like a Pro | Keep it Win-Win, and Give to Get

How do you get the biggest name in boxing, arguably the best boxer to ever step into the ring, to agree to a fight with an MMA fighter who has never professionally boxed?

You need to understand what the other party wants. Not just on the surface. What they truly want.

What would Mayweather possibly want?

  1. Money - Mayweather likes to spend money and is rumored to have financial troubles.
  2. Vanity - Mayweather wants to keep his undefeated record untarnished.
  3. Cash Flow - Mayweather wants big fights. At 43, the window of opportunity is slowly closing.

When Mayweather fought Pacquiao, the purse was split $180 million for Mayweather and $120 million for Pacquiao, according to Kurt Badenhausen.

Big number for sure. What could Conor offer? He has a big name, but he’s not Manny Pacquiao.

Money: Conor offers a better split of revenues. Reportedly, Mayweather took in $500 million with Conor only taking $100 million.

Vanity: On paper, this fight should be the least risk for Mayweather. Sure, Conor has a monster left hand, but he’s not a professional boxer. Mayweather believes he will retain his record.

Cash Flow: McGregor offers to promote the hell out of this fight. With Mayweather believing he has no chance of losing, he also retains his record, assuring he can continue to get big money fights.

Let’s face it. Conor couldn’t lose. Losing to Mayweather in a boxing match doesn’t hurt his brand at all, and he comes away $100 million dollars richer and an even bigger brand.

The secret to negotiating is to have a deep understanding of what the other party wants. 

Make the deal win-win. If the other party has massive leverage or if the deal could be a game changer for you or your business, don’t be afraid to give them more.

Lesson 22 - Spend More Time on Promotion 

MMA training takes a considerable amount of time. 

MMA fighters train in multiple disciplines, lift weights, and do a ton of cardio. They also need time to sleep and recover.

With all this training, how do you even have time to promote the fight? 

Still McGregor has taken time to make appearances, go on press tours, television, podcasts, and more.

Promote Your Stuff

A lot of fighters hate promoting. It takes time away from the things they need to do to prepare for a fight.

No matter how hard it is, promotion is key to becoming a big name in the sport.

This is great advice, especially for creatives. Creatives spend so much time producing work. It seems productive, but you need to spend equal time promoting.

Lesson 23 - Diversify | You Need Multiple Revenue Streams

As in most professional sports, MMA fighters take a brutal toll on their bodies. It is hard to determine the average fighter’s career length, but the 9-year rule, stating that fighter’s start to decline around the 9-year mark, is a good indicator.

This means that most fighters only have 10 years to maximize their career earnings in the sport.

McGregor has done this through sponsorships: 

  • Burger King
  • Beats by Dre
  • Monster Energy
  • David August
  • BSN
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • HiSmile
  • Betsafe

He has a residency deal with the Wynn Las Vegas for his post fight after parties.

He owns digital properties selling workouts (McGregor FAST Program), emojis (MacMoji App), the MacTalk App, and the everything McGregor and MMA website, the Mac Life. All of these generate additional revenue.

Then like a true Irishman, he started his own line of whiskey, Proper 12, just in time before the biggest fight of his MMA career against Khabib Nurmagomedov. In a genius move, McGregor sponsored his own UFC fight to promote his new whiskey. The brand has reportedly brought in $1 billion in sales in its first year.

Changing markets, the economy, or a pandemic can all change everything in an instant. It is important to have multiple revenue streams to both maximize revenue generation opportunities and safeguard you from a change in circumstances such as a lay-off.

Side Hustles are becoming more and more popular!

Lesson 24 - There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Conor McGregor and his team’s bus incident ignited a flurry of bad press. A string of bad publicity follows. Let's take a quick look at the trends for Conor Mcgregor searches over time:

Conor McGregor Popularity Trend

Each point represents a time of high searches for his name: 

  1. Becomes Cage Warriors Double Champ (& tweeted by Joe Rogan)
  2. McGregor vs Mendes (& interviewed on Conan)
  3. McGregor vs. Aldo
  4. McGregor vs. Diaz I
  5. McGregor vs. Diaz II
  6. McGregor vs. Alvarez
  7. McGregor vs. Mayweather
  8. McGregor Bus Incident
  9. McGregor vs. Khabib
  10. Accusation of Sexual Assault
  11. Mcgregor Bar Fight
  12. Mcgregor vs. Cerrone

Numbers 8, 10, & 11 are all bad press.

But an old saying by P.T. Barnum rang true.

PT Barnum Quote

The fight with Khabib went on to become the biggest fight in UFC history.

Now the saying isn’t 100% true, we’ve all seen bad press sink a company, but let’s be real, this is the fight game. The fans secretly loved it. Come on, he’s a fighter. We expect this.

Bad Publicity can actually help smaller brands, as it still gets eyeballs on the product, service, or person. The strategy definitely has some risks, but we’ve seen some major brands built with bad press (think Kim K’s sex tape).

However, larger brands can lose a lot of business with bad press.

Lesson 25 - Forward Momentum Propels You Forward | Choose Your Battles Wisely

After a long lay-off between the Khabib defeat, Conor needs to win a big fight to get back in title contention.

Donald Cerrone is a great matchup. It is a fight he is expected to win as he is a -300 favorite according to oddsmakers. Plus, Cerrone is one of the most entertaining fighters to watch with his stand and bang style.

McGregor’s quick win over Donald Cerrone provides him with forward momentum once again and vaults him right back into title contention.

Look for little wins. Forward momentum propels you forward, boosts your confidence, and reinvigorates your motivation. 

Set goals. Blast them. Keep moving forward.

Lesson 26 - Be Willing to Walk Away if the Deal Isn’t Right

At this point, McGregor wants a big fight. 

A rematch with Khabib, a contender’s fight against Gaethje, or a spectacle with either a Diaz trilogy or the BMF holder, Masvidal.

No other fights really make sense right now. 

Maybe Conor will take a rematch with Floyd Mayweather or perhaps the talks about Pacquiao are true. Who knows.

Without the right match on the table, Conor decides to sit on the sideline until the right deal is presented.

Sometimes it is better to walk away and keep your stock high than to take a bad deal. 

Bonus Lesson 1 - Take Care of Your Body & Mind

As an elite athlete, surely Conor McGregor is in great shape. Yet, it was a story about Lebron James that changed his entire outlook on training and mindset.

Lebron reportedly has a cadre of trainers, biomechanists, massage therapists, nutritionists, and personal chefs that have all contributed to his longevity in the sport. He does cryotherapy and spends time in the hyperbaric chamber. It was even reported that Lebron took ballet classes to help with his footwork. 

He spends roughly $1.5 million a year on his body.

After McGregor read this, he knew he had to invest in his own body.

It seems he also worked with Tony Robbins, the ultimate life coach, to help with his mental state.

Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends. Choose three.

The above is a running joke in the startup world. It is hard to juggle everything when you’re busy trying to change the world.

Physical fitness and mental health are extremely important. Keep in shape and you’ll be more productive, have more energy, and be able to think more clearly.

Body Plus Mind

Bonus Lesson 2 - Develop Unbreakable Confidence

Conor McGregor exudes confidence. While all professional athletes share this trait, Conor’s confidence is off the charts even for professional athlete standards. It is unbreakable.

A lot of people mistake McGregor’s confidence for arrogance. Understandably so. 

Yet, Conor believes what he is saying.

I’ve watched countless hours of pre-fight interviews of both Conor and other fighters. Conor McGregor has absolute certainty he is going to win.

Other fighters also believe they are going to win. However, you can see faint tells, twitches, micro expressions, or even vocal uncertainties in their responses. Subconsciously, somewhere deep down, the fighter has doubts. Doubts in themselves and doubts in their abilities.

This is not evident anywhere in Conor McGregor’s UFC career. This does put the Tony Robbins coaching into perspective. DId Conor need help getting his confidence back after he was defeated by Khabib? Tony Robbins would be the guy to get your mojo back!

I believe there are two main drivers to success in business:

  1. Believing in yourself
  2. Having something to prove

Confidence gets you on the road to success. If you believe in yourself, you’ll be willing to take the chance at greatness.

On the flip side of the coin, there is one group of people with low confidence that also have the ability to make it big - someone who is determined to prove their worth. These people are so determined to be successful their lack of confidence does not scare them away. Slowly, they become confident along the way.

Bonus Lesson 3 - Be Grateful

The one thing that surprised me in the research for this article was how grateful he is for everything he has accomplished.

McGregor Grateful

Conor Mcgregor, an international sports legend with $100+ million dollars. A man that could have anything he wants. And he is truly grateful for his success.

No matter your success in life, this one is the key. No amount of money will ever make you happy. But gratitude - for your family, your friends, your lifestyle, for every little positive thing in your life that you take for granted, that is the real key to success and happiness.

Now It’s Your Turn

There you have it: my list of 26 business lessons learned from Conor McGregor

Now I’d like to hear what you have to say:

Which strategy from this list are you going to try first?

What's your game? Is there a tactic you can use from the list to up your game?

Let me know in the comments section below.

Follow

About the Author

I help business owners, entrepreneurs, experts, and coaches spread their message to gain more business and influence through media coverage.

>