Vegas hero McGregor targeting Aldo and Croke Park
Published 13/07/2015 | 02:30
Fresh plans are being drawn up for the most anticipated fight in UFC history after Dubliner Conor McGregor became the featherweight world champion in Las Vegas yesterday.
Within minutes of McGregor's knock-out win over Chad Mendes at the MGM Grand, talk immediately turned to the likelihood of a fight with Jose Aldo - and the possibility of a massive Croke Park homecoming next year.
The pair were initially due to fight yesterday but Aldo pulled out due to injury and was replaced on the ticket by Mendes.
UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertita said that the grudge match would "probably" now take place on January 2 in Las Vegas, but that nothing was "set in stone".
If the fight happens, hopes are high that the former plumber, who is fast becoming one of the Ireland's biggest international brands, will agree to a Croke Park date.
Independent councillor for Dublin City Council Paul Hand said that it would be "fantastic" for the capital to host such a fight.
"I think Dublin City Council could certainly do more to entice the UFC over here" he told the Irish Independent.
The fight at the MGM Grand was the most lucrative gate in UFC history at $7.2m (€6.45m).
But if punters pay €100 on average per ticket into Croke Park - which has a capacity of more than 82,000 - then an event in the north Dublin ground would eclipse that record.
"I'm sure people from all over the world would come here too, so hotels would benefit also," Mr Hand said.
Speaking at a post-fight press conference, McGregor said he intended to make a Dublin event happen.
"The stadium show in Dublin will happen... make no mistake about that," he said.
UFC president Dana White has previously expressed reservations about the strict conditions that can apply to events at Croke Park, including curfews and the difficulty with selling the event to pay-per-view audiences in the US, given the time difference.
However, after the scenes of Irish fans partying in Las Vegas over recent days, he may be inclined to reward their enthusiasm. "I've told you guys many times that Croke Park is tough. It's a tough place to pull off, but we're determined to do it," he said.
Under current regulations, only three events outside of Gaelic games can be played in Croke Park, so it is important that if the UFC agrees to host a fight there that it is prioritised, Mr Hand said, referencing the 'on-again-off-again' saga surrounding Garth Brooks last summer.
Mendes dominated much of yesterday's fight at the Grand Garden Arena. But towards the end of the second round, McGregor worked his way out of trouble, flooring Mendes with a shuddering left hand from which he couldn't get up.
It meant the title went to McGregor and with it a one-way ticket towards a date with Aldo.