In only 23 years, both the good and the poor, LEE MCGREGOR has seen more than anyone.
The Edinburgh warrior still has the British and Commonwealth titles in his possession, but after losing four close family members, including his mother, in the space of 12 months a few years ago, he still has his fair share of pain to contend with.
It is the roller coaster of a lifetime that could have catapulted him earlier than expected to the top of his sport. McGregor has made no secret of his ambition to become a world champion, and next month, when he fights for the European title, the bantamweight will take another step towards his ultimate target.
On January 22, in an effort to accomplish the extraordinary of getting his hands on the British, Commonwealth and European titles in the space of just ten fights, McGregor will face Frenchman Karim Guerfi in Yorkshire.
The battle, of course, would take place two months later than originally planned, as less than two weeks before the original date, McGregor’s positive Covid test threw a wrench into the works. McGregor was devastated by the postponement, he admits, and he was suffering from the flu, but, luckily, the ailment was short-lived. And now the 23-year-old is persuaded that the delay is working in his favor.
“Testing positive was a disaster – everything had been going so well that to test positive ten days before the fight was a nightmare,” he said.
“I had a rough weekend with a bad headache, and in terms of fitness, that set me back a lot. Even things like climbing stairs were a challenge – I was breathless and just didn’t feel right.
But I feel fine now — I knew that another consultation was going to take place, so I just focused on that.
“I feel like I’m getting back to my normal self, and my fitness is getting closer to where I want it to be. I expect that with this extra time, I’ll have the best preparation for a fight I’ve ever had.”
McGregor has always been considered one to keep an eye on, but after becoming a pro in 2017, he admits he himself has been shocked by the pace of his development.
He said, “I’m never going to back down from a tough fight,”
But I didn’t think my success would be so fast, to be honest. If you had told me that I would already be British and Commonwealth champion in eight fights and in the headlines, I would have laughed in your face. I didn’t expect it, but I worked hard and won my chance.
“I’ve proven my worth and I’m being rewarded for the risks I’ve taken.”
McGregor is right when he says he doesn’t fear the challenge. Last year, his fight against compatriot Kash Farooq was one of the most thrilling all-Scottish matches of the last decade, won by McGregor by split decision, and it is that ability to put everything on the line that the Edinburgh fighter believes separates him from the crowd.
“The most important thing, I suppose, is that I don’t fear losing. I go into every fight with 100% trust that I can win, but I’m not afraid of losing at the same time,’ he said.
I think the fear of failure is why there are issues for a lot of people. There are a lot of people who want to remain unbeaten, but the kind of people I’ve fought don’t fight them.
“That’s the way I’ve been my whole career and that’s the way I’ll continue to be.”
McGregor’s upcoming opponent surpasses him in experience: McGregor was just ten years old when Guerfi made his pro debut. And McGregor was still in high school when the Frenchman first won this European title in 2013.
However, the Scot is not confronted by the gap in experience, and while he is mindful of the task that awaits him, he is brimming with confidence.
“This is a big step up in class for me,” McGregor said.
“But I’ve matured now. I feel like my manhood is coming, I’m getting stronger in the gym and I feel like everything is coming together at just the right time.”
Over the summer, McGregor didn’t spend a single minute in lockdown. He spent hours pounding the pavement, and it was that inner drive that ensured that McGregor established a reputation as one of the best young fighters in Britain. And though he feels that all of it is actually his vera,