It’s the holiday season, and with the new year quickly approaching, Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2015. Throughout the remainder of the year, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
In a year where unpredictability was king, Conor McGregor somehow left no doubt as to who would be named our Combat Press “Fighter of the Year.”
While McGregor’s year was essentially a 12-month promotion for the fight with José Aldo, the work “Notorious” did both inside and outside of the cage in 2015 made him the clear choice for this award. After kicking off the year in January with a dominant knockout win over Dennis Siver in front of a Boston crowd that couldn’t get enough of the future featherweight champion, McGregor made it incredibly clear that he was going to be the man who took out Aldo and spent the next 12 months boldly backing up that prediction as often as possible while creating the most anticipated title fight the UFC has had in years.
Anchored by a 10-part UFC Embedded series that followed McGregor and Aldo as they embarked on a groundbreaking press tour that spanned eight cities in five different countries over the course of 11 days, McGregor took his already rising star and shot it through the stratosphere with his antics over the course of the tour. Whether it came from the trash talk in which the Irishman excels or his more direct approach of stealing Aldo’s belt and taunting him with it in front of a wild Dublin crowd, McGregor took the rivalry to levels rarely seen in combat sports.
When Aldo was forced to pull out of a scheduled bout between the two in July, McGregor kept his barrage of insults coming fast and furiously toward the Brazilian champion. After insinuating everything from Aldo faking an injury to being scared and running from the bout, McGregor somehow managed to add even more intrigue behind his eventual scrap with Aldo, all while simultaneously promoting his new headlining bout with Chad Mendes for an interim belt.
After dispatching Mendes late in the second round and getting a gold belt of his own at UFC 189, McGregor once again turned his attention to Aldo. By the time we hit UFC 194 earlier this month, 2015 had already been a betting fan’s nightmare. Half of the organization’s titles had changed hands already (with two more champions unseated that night) and heavily favored top stars Ronda Rousey, Anthony Pettis and Cain Velasquez had already proven that no one is safe when it comes to holding onto a UFC championship. Yet, even after seeing the seemingly impossible happen multiple times over the past 12 months, fight fans and experts alike still ended up with their jaws on the floor when McGregor landed the first left hand of the fight and finished the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world in just 13 seconds.
We crowned plenty of new champions this year, saw some of the most anticipated rivalry bouts ever go down and watched as the most dominant woman in the history of our sport was knocked off of her throne. But when we eventually look back on 2015, it will be the Conor McGregor Show, all 12 months and 13 seconds of it, that we’re going to remember most, and that’s why he’s the Combat Press “Fighter of the Year.”
Other Finalists: Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Holly Holm
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2015 MMA Award winners.