Ilia Topuria’s meteoric rise eerily mirrors Conor McGregor’s UFC journey

Hunter Haas
Current UFC champion Ilia Topuria is following the same path Conor McGregor blazed years ago

A star was born at UFC 298 when Ilia Topuria made good on his pre-fight promise by knocking Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski out in the second round.

Topuria spoke confidently in the lead-up to UFC 298, often throwing shade at the current champion while shining light on himself. The Spaniard even stole Volk’s belt multiple times during pre-fight pressers.

Volkanovski engaged in a witty verbal sparring match before the main event bout. His approach was that of a grizzled vet, while Topuria represented the up-and-comer looking to snatch the crown.

Midway through the second round on Saturday night, Topuria’s dreams came true. He hit an accurate barrage of punches on Volk, with the killer blow coming via a brutal right hook that sent the champion faceplanting on the canvas.

The knockout reminded many fans of the infamous Conor McGregor knockout of Jose Aldo to win the Featherweight strap at UFC 194. But that is only the beginning of the Topuria-McGregor similarities.

Ilia Topuria and Conor McGregor share uncanny UFC similarities

Fighting prowess in the octagon

McGregor’s trademark power is matched by Topuria, with both fighters proving their knockout prowess early on. The two began their UFC careers at 7-0 with several early-round stoppages. At 27, they each knocked out a legendary Featherweight Champion to earn their first taste of gold in the UFC.

Each guy is willing to absorb heavy contact to position themselves for a counterattack. McGregor and Topuria love to stand and trade hands in the center of the octagon, eliciting excitement from those in attendance.

Both helped put their nations on the map for the UFC, as McGregor represented Ireland at a time when the country was still building its authority in the MMA world. The same is true now for Topuria and his Spanish roots.

Personality outside the octagon

Nowadays, McGregor is always found donning fancy, custom-made suits, but even in the early stages, he had a flare for the finer things.

Topuria does his best to imitate that lifestyle, as the 27-year-old loves flexing his wealth with flashy jewelry.

Both guys specialize in sending out pre-fight guarantees. Whether it’s which round they’ll knock someone out or the manner in which they’ll do so, they both attempt to predict the outcomes ahead of time.

And to this point, their hit rates are solid, especially after Topuria’s second-round KO at UFC 298.

History is repeating itself in the Featherweight division

While on the rise, McGregor enjoyed calling out opponents after winning fights, and Topuria took a page out of that book on Saturday.

He told McGregor that they can fight at any weight class as long as the battle takes place in Topuria’s home country of Spain. It mirrors the way Conor used to campaign for a UFC PPV in Ireland.

As for now, “The Notorious” is scheduled to fight Michael Chandler at an unspecified event in the near future. If the Irishman can return to form, a super fight between himself and Topuria could very well be in play. But first, McGregor must get through Chandler.

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