With UFC’s Dublin return less than a month away, Conor “Done Deal” Dillon spoke to PETER CARROLL and looked back on his October 2010 meeting with Conor McGregor at Chaos Fighting Championships 7, in Derry.
The No Fear MMA fighter discussed how he was offered the fight, where he was in his career at the time, being stood up mid-guillotine attempt and the fight ending after he suffered an injury.
In September 2010, Conor “Done Deal” Dillon had his mind set on getting back into the win column after suffering a controversial disqualification loss to Bogusz Pochylski the month before, at Clan Wars 4.
When matchmakers from Chaos Fighting Championships approached the up-and-comer about competing in the seventh installment of their promotion, which was due to take place on October 8th in the Everglades Hotel in Derry, he was never going to turn it down.
The Drogheda man recalls being offered the lightweight bout with Conor McGregor after the Dubliner’s original opponent dropped out of the fight, a reoccurring theme for the John Kavanagh product to this day.
“I took the fight on a month’s notice, someone dropped out and they needed a replacement,” explains Dillon. “I remember my coach telling me the name, Conor McGregor, and I went and watched everything that I could find on him. He looked decent and I remember on one of the videos from Cage Rage he was already telling people he was the future.”
McGregor had been on the missing list for nearly two years before trading leather with Dillon, with his last outing coming at Barry Oglesby’s Fight Before Christmas where he took a first round TKO victory over judoka Stephen Bailey.
Dillon had impressed in his first three fights too, despite the DQ loss, and he remembers the reputation that McGregor had already earned himself.
“I was 2-1 at the time and he was 3-1, and the only loss I had on my record was from a DQ when I fought Bogusz Pochylski at Clan Wars 4. I don’t think it shouldn’t have been a disqualification, it was a stroke of bad luck I suppose.
“Conor did have a bit of a reputation at the time. I used to get a good bit of support around Drogheda at the time and I’d go and put flyers up in the local chippers and stuff. The flyers for that particular show had him billed as ‘the most feared lightweight in Ireland’, so people knew about him,” he recalls.
Regardless of the film that was available on McGregor at the time, Dillon described how fight preparation was not at the level that it is today and what he focused on to get ready for the bout.
“Things are a lot more professional now. Back then it was still very new and the coach I had at the time, Junior, had some good kicks but he was more grappling based. I had been boxing for years and I’d won a couple of Leinster titles.
“I thought my boxing was really good for MMA at the time, it’s only now that I realise that I’ve only learned how to box in the last couple of years. I could throw a couple of digs at the time and that was about it really.
“I didn’t look at Conor’s videos and prepare anything based on that. It was simpler then. We weren’t doing things the way we would do them now, fight preparation is on a different level these days.”
Famed for his intimidation tactics at fight weigh-ins, McGregor and Dillon never got the chance to trade dehydrated, sinister scowls on the eve of their contest due to the awkward location of the event. However, the Crumlin man made every effort to make an impression once they did catch a glimpse of each other.
Dylan recalls: “We didn’t have a face off, the fight was in Derry so it was a video weigh in. The first time I saw him in person was just before the fight. There was a little kitchen in the back that you wait in just before you went out to fight and I could see him through the door laughing at me, he was trying to get into my head.
“Then when we were in the ring standing in front of each other he started laughing again. It wasn’t intimidating really, I always just want to get stuck in and I had no fear of him. My father was sick at the time too, not that I want to use that as an excuse, I just had that on my mind more than anything.”
Just five fights into his fight career, at Chaos Fighting Championships 7 McGregor already had a flair for the spectacular. Rolling his shoulders, putting his hands down by his side and titling his chin forward, holding his power hand up in the air and throwing left hand leads from his southpaw stance – he was already conditioned for “putting on a show”.
Tactics that would no doubt intimidate a great number of opponents, Dillon seemed unfazed and charged forward throughout the bout, while McGregor fed him a jab to set up his piston-like left hand.
“When I think about it now I don’t reckon it bothered me,” says Dillon, “but I remember my coach at the time saying to me after the fight, ‘he fucked your head up’. During the fight he had his hands down and he was leaning forward and I kicked him in the head, he got down to business after that.
“I think he thought it was going to be an easier night for him. I know it wasn’t the longest fight in the world, but I still think he expected it to be easier.”
Forcing the Dubliner to stumble after delivering a solid body kick two minutes into the fight, Dillon used the opportunity to try and jump guard and lock up a guillotine. However, despite holding onto the choke for a considerable period of time, the referee stood the fight back up while the choke seemed to be still on, taking away Dillon’s most clear cut chance at victory.
“That situation wouldn’t happen today, the referees have a little bit more experience. I don’t know why it happened, maybe the crowd got to him or something. The choke was definitely on and I remember John Kavanagh saying to him ‘there’s nothing there’.
“To be fair to McGregor, he was blocking my other leg and if he wasn’t doing that I would’ve been able to finish by getting him back into full guard. I just remember the referee standing us up and I just thought ‘for fuck sake’, but I ran straight back at him after the stand up.”
An injury would signal the end of the fight. Dillon, attempting to connect with a leg kick, saw his effort checked by McGregor’s knee leaving him unable to continue.
“It was basically the same thing that happened to Anderson Silva, only it was my foot instead of my shin. I didn’t break my foot, but every muscle and ligament was completely obliterated.
“He came over and sympathised with me after it was stopped and then he came over to me again in the dressing room to see how I was. I know some people think he is an arrogant bastard but he is sound.
“The way he goes on seems to annoy people but he has to do that, it’s all part of it. He’s a decent bloke. I spoke to him before his UFC debut as well and he seemed exactly the same.
“After the fight I had to get a full cast on for eight weeks, but I got so pissed off with it I ended up cutting it off myself after three weeks.”
As for any affect the fight had on his trajectory, besides the injury, Dillon believes that the contest has not changed anything too significant for him.
“I don’t think it had a lasting impact on my career,” he says. “I was out of training for eight weeks, but I was straight back into things after that. Maybe the fight did force me to improve, but I just think it’s all a natural progression.
“Between my skillset then and my skillset now, there’s a huge difference and I’m sure Conor is the same. The sport has evolved too and there’s a lot more specialist training involved. I’m just glad I was able to get in there with one of the best.”
Dillon also revealed that he pursued a rematch with the now UFC fighter and how he believes his former opponent was right not to take him up on his request.
“I was mad for a rematch because of how it finished and I still thought I did well considering some of his other fights around that time. I was on to John Kavanagh the whole time asking but he told me that Conor had set his sights on the Cage Warriors title.
“I have a lot of respect for him because he went out and did it. I didn’t get my rematch but he went on to win two of their titles. After that he went on the UFC so he was right to ignore me really. I’m glad I got to test myself against one of the best.”
Conor Dillon takes on Mick Brennan in the main-event of No Fear Fighting Championships on Saturday July 5 in TLT, Drogheda.
You can check out other editions of Petesy Carroll’s “Facing McGregor”
Mike Wood ¦ Paddy Doherty ¦ Gary Morris ¦ Joseph Duffy