By the time he met Conor McGregor at Immortal Fighting Championships 4 in April 2011, Paddy Doherty had already been established as one of the old school of Ireland’s mixed martial arts scene.
Although his record read 5-6 as he made his way into the Donegal contest against the SBG knockout artist, Doherty revealed that nobody from the formative years of the island’s MMA scene really knew what their real records were.
“To be honest my record could’ve been anything,” explained Doherty. “Ask Davey Patterson or any of them UFR (Ultimate Fight Revolution) boys – all of our records are all over the shop. Most of the fights back then were never recorded. Honestly, I’ve had 28 fights in my career and I don’t know if even half of them are recorded.
“I fought up as far as middleweight. You would literally be matched with anyone that looked around the same size as you back then. I was always only fighting for the craic, and even before I fought McGregor I was doing it for the same reasons.
“To be honest, I barely knew who he was. By the time we fought I had seen him fighting one time before, but I had been coming back and forward from England a lot at the time. I didn’t really have my head in the MMA scene the way I used to.
“Davey Patterson literally just rang me and asked me would I fight a guy called Conor McGregor. I took the fight no problem.”
Although Doherty had been training for a number of years before his meeting with McGregor, due to work commitments the Northern Irish fighter found himself struggling to fit in training time due to his travelling back and forth to England at the time.
He said: “I started training with Marty McLaughlin a long time ago, he’s still involved with Torres BJJ now. Back when we were younger we started to train under Dave Patterson. By the time this fight came around I had been training a bit in Wales too.
“Anywhere I could get training I would get some time in, but it was harder around the time of this particular fight because I was travelling over to England quite a lot at the time.”
As Doherty previously mentioned, he did get to see the Dubliner in action before they met when ‘The Notorious’ faced Hugh Brady in his first bout since picking up his last recorded loss to Joseph Duffy. The Brady fight took place at Chaos Fighting Championship 8 two months before their meeting.
McGregor returned after the Duffy loss a much more patient fighter who appeared to have added a lot more to his arsenal. Straight shots to the body and head, leg kicks and superior movement put Brady under pressure early before a right uppercut sent him hurtling to the canvas. Ground and pound from mount secured the win for McGregor on the night.
“I caught on to who McGregor was eventually, I had seen him fight Hugh Brady at Chaos Fighting Championships,” said Doherty. “I can remember watching the fight and thinking after it – ‘Holy fuck, who is this boy?’
“He took Hugh apart inside a couple of minutes. I didn’t expect to see that you know, he was very impressive and he looked very dangerous. I knew that I should really take notice of him because I was already scheduled to fight him at that stage. I figured I should sort myself out and start training,” he remembered.
Doherty was impressed with what he saw of McGregor, but as the fight got closer word came through that the prospect was having trouble making the 146 lbs weigh limit. A factor that would shape his game plan, Doherty explained.
“We didn’t get to weigh in together. I think he made weight in Dublin. That was the thing though, we knew he was busting himself to get down to featherweight at the time, whereas I had been competing at bantamweight before that.
“As soon as we heard that he was having trouble getting down to the weight I was thinking, ‘that’s where we’ll have him’. I wanted to keep the fight going for as long as I could and hopefully he would gas out.”
The fight would only last four seconds as McGregor collapsed Doherty with a stinging left hand when they first engaged. Remaining one the quickest finishes in MMA history as well as McGregor’s fastest dispatching of an opponent, Doherty revealed how he remembers the fight.
“The plan was that I would come out as southpaw and start hitting him with the left, but then I was going to switch and step into an orthodox position. He hit me with an overhand right, I think it was an overhand right anyway, and that was it.
“I can’t really remember that much of it but my whole plan was to switch in the middle. I didn’t get the chance to do it on the night after taking the shot, but that’s just how these things happen sometimes,” he said.
Doherty also recalled the interactions he had with McGregor around the contest, remembering the surging UFC featherweight as an ‘absolute gentleman’.
“To be honest, Conor was an absolute gentleman, he was as nice as pie. I can remember before we fought I saw him. He caught my eye and I smiled at him and gave him a nod. He walked straight over to me, shook my hand and said ‘may the best man win’.
“I see all the stuff that’s going on now, but he wasn’t like that back then, certainly not with me. Even the day after the fight he reached out to me and asked me how I was and told me it would be great if I came down to train with him. The guy was 100 per cent, a really nice fella,” he recalled of McGregor.
Pondering what impact the McGregor fight had on his career Doherty admitted that he found the question hard to answer because he was never competing to make a living from MMA.
McGregor’s former opponent also commented on how he told the John Kavanagh product that he would make it to the world’s flagship MMA promotion the day after they fought.
“For me the fight game was never really a career so it’s hard to answer that,” explained Doherty. “I’m from the old school, we were all in it to have a bit of craic as I said. I mean if you even knew Davey Patterson back then, if he saw you on the Wednesday you would have a fight on the Saturday night!
“I always enjoyed having a scrap. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed winning, but I enjoyed having a scrap way more. For me it was never going to be a career, I was always in a full time job, so I could never look at fighting that way.
“I had some good fights, and I suppose people will always remember that I fought Conor McGregor. I had great fight with Muay Thai fighter called Craig Jose once too, this guy had fought in Thailand and he was a big deal.
“I fought him at welterweight, so I was way smaller than him. He was trying for the whole fight, but he couldn’t knock me out. Conor knocked me out a good while after that, but I went 15 minutes with Jose and he couldn’t put me out.
“The next day after I fought Conor, I said to him, ‘I guarantee you’ll be in the UFC’. Then he said to me, ‘that’s the plan’, and it’s worked out well for him.”
Doherty discussed what he thinks of McGregor now that he has become one of the most talked about athletes in the sport. He also commented on how he thinks the Irishman will do against featherweight king Jose Aldo when the pair meet in July.
“I love the way he’s been carrying himself in the UFC, everybody wants to watch him and I suppose there’s never been anyone like him before. I love it to tell you the truth and because Jose Aldo allows himself to be hit, I think Conor will knock him out.
“I’m not even bragging, but I’ve been in there with some of the hardest hitting fighters. I was in with a European champion Muay Thai fighter, I was in there with Lee Coville and he was a world champion – these boys didn’t hit anything like the way Conor McGregor hit.
“I’m telling you, I have never been hit like that in my whole life. He put me out in a few seconds, the power that man has is absolutely unreal.”
Having stepped away from competition, Doherty explained his relationship with MMA today.
Doherty said: “I still train a lot but I would be in and out a but. I just kind of do it to keep in shape now. I have no drive to ever compete again to be honest with you, not unless there’s anyone else that’s hitting 40 that’s interested,” he laughed.
“Then again, just when I think I’m feeling too old for this stuff it’s announced that Kimbo Slice is fighting Ken Shamrock! Seriously though, I can’t see myself ever getting back in there.”
Many may have seen the viral video shared around last week of the quickest MMA KOs of all time that featured a cameo from McGregor and Doherty’s meeting. Finally, we asked the Northern Irish fighter how it feels to see the footage of the fight pop up from time to time.
“I have a good laugh at it. I can laugh at it now, but I definitely wasn’t laughing at it about three years ago when nobody knew who Conor McGregor was. I couldn’t believe how it had happened, but now I suppose my claim to fame is the fact that he knocked me out,” he laughed.
“I can laugh at it now but the people who shouldn’t laugh at it are the people who never had the balls to walk on to it themselves. I fought for a long and I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before.”
You can check out other editions of Petesy Carroll’s “Facing McGregor”