Conor McGregor’s Early Career Did Not Start Off The Way He Wanted it to… A Loss in His Third Fight to Artemij Sitenkov Was a Harsh Lesson For The Man Who Would Soon Redefine The Sport…
Whether or not you think he’s an unhinged genius or an insecure nervous wreck after that press conference in New York, it doesn’t matter. Conor McGregor has proven that he is the biggest name in combat sports on the planet. Nobody else can touch him – at least not for the next two weeks. A loss to Khabib Nurmagamedov might change the narrative.
However, it hasn’t always been an easy ride for ‘The Notorious’. Almost all fighters have to start from the bottom and work upwards, overcoming adversity along the way. McGregor’s financial woes have been well-documented, but what about his actual defeats prior to entering the UFC?
His grappling and wrestling have long been questioned. Early career losses to Artemij Sitenkov and more famously Joe Duffy could have derailed the hype train before it even began. Now Sitenkov has explained to TMZ what exactly went down the night he defeated the Notorious.
The footage above was taken in 2008, when McGregor fought Sitenkov at Cage of Truth III in Dublin, Ireland. 19-year old McGregor was coming into this one off the back of two TKO wins, and it was crazily his third fight in four months. The things you’ve got to do when you’re on the bottom of the pile…
Anyway, McGregor would be very quickly taken down and dragged into a grappling match as he had never experienced. The wily and experienced Sitenkov was able to trap his leg and crank up a kneebar, forcing the young Irishman to tap out.
In a very classy response to typically ridiculous questions by TMZ, Sitenkov explained what happened to McGregor that night and why he cried after losing. The Lithuanian WFCA fighter (he’s still active) said:
“He was 19 years old, almost a teenager, and it was his first defeat, so yeah, he was emotional. All the reporters like to speak about it like ‘oh, you made McGregor cry’ or something like that.
“No. I just got a leglock and he cried because he was almost a teenager so don’t pay attention to this. When I was a kid and I lost my first fight, I was also crying. It’s natural. I didn’t beat superstar McGregor. I beat teenager McGregor. They’re two different people.”
You have to respect the frankness of Sitenkov there. There’s absolutely no delusion and he’s totally right in everything he’s saying. There’s genuinely nothing wrong with being overcome with emotion after victory or defeat. We’ve seen many fighters shed a few tears either way – ‘champ-champ’ Daniel Cormier not least of them.
And when you think about it, this was the young man’s dreams being crushed. Living on dole cheque to dole cheque, and fighting for 500 euro… it’s just insane to consider how far he’s come.
Most of the greats have experienced losses in their early careers. This has set them on track to improve next time out and give them a rude awakening. This defeat showed McGregor just how technical MMA could be and he’s been all the better for that lesson.