Thursday 21 September 2017

'Conor is the only fighter who could put Aldo away like that'

Conor McGregor leaps to the top of the octagon in celebration after beating Jose Aldo
Conor McGregor leaps to the top of the octagon in celebration after beating Jose Aldo

Cathal Pendred

The way Conor won was incredible and I was jumping up and down watching it, but I wasn't one bit shocked. I've seen him do that so many times before. I went backstage and I was being asked to do interviews but I told them that I was speechless and I didn't know what to say.

To do it in just 13 seconds - a record for a title fight, and against a guy like Jose Aldo - was perfect. Conor is the one that predicts these things, and he's never wrong really.

It was just an incredible moment. To see someone you've trained with for so long do that, to have shared part of the journey with him, it was amazing and it's an absolute privilege to have shared the mats with Conor and called him a team-mate.

Only three years ago he was on the dole and now he's out here in Vegas, the world champion, making millions, and is the biggest star in the sport. To have known him from the days when we were fighting for a hundred quid and then going onto the UFC together, it's been some journey.

Conor probably didn't react as emotionally as he did when beating Chad Mendes because, if you were to compare both fights, the preparation was completely different.

Everything that could possibly have gone wrong in the lead up to UFC 189 went wrong. Conor completely tore all the ligaments in his knee and was struggling to walk for a couple of weeks.

Between beating Dennis Siver in January and fighting Mendes on July 19, he was only home for three days. Then two weeks out, Jose Aldo withdrew, so there was an emotional build-up because of everything that went wrong.

Whereas this time, everything went perfect - he was at home, close to his team and much more relaxed. You could see it in the build-up to the fight that he was so much calmer and so assured. He was just in the perfect place. This time it played out exactly as it was supposed to.

I thought Aldo looked beaten before he got in there. I really believe he doesn't want to be there anymore.

He's been an unbelievable champion but a time comes when you don't want to do something any longer and that was just accentuated by Conor. Jose, because of his disdain for Conor, was probably in the Octagon out of a matter of pride.

I still think heading into UFC 194 things worked out better for Aldo because he had no major media obligations to do and wasn't as agitated as he would have been had he and Conor fought in July.

Aldo fought the fight he usually does. Had he thrown that combination at anyone else, be it Chad Mendes or Frankie Edgar, Aldo would not have been put away like that and may have even landed one of his big leg-kicks.

But Conor sees things differently and expects these things. That's what I was saying before this fight that Jose has fought nobody like Conor. There isn't anybody like him.

There was nobody Aldo could get in to mimic him in sparring; as the song goes, 'There's only one Conor McGregor'. He's impossible to prepare for.

The Irish fans have been incredible. The Las Vegas locals have been talking about it, because people come to Vegas to get drunk and party, but when the Irish come it's altogether as one, united in the fact that they are here to support their countryman.

Deafening

It's amazing because of the amount of money it costs to get here to watch Conor, and what the fans do make the occasion just so much better. The noise in the MGM Grand was deafening.

I saw Conor backstage and gave him hug and left him to it, but we'll be heading out to toast his victory.

I can't say I ever thought that in 2015, one of Ireland's most globally famous athletes would be a mixed martial artist. I knew the sport would get big in Ireland and, when it did, Conor would be a superstar - but maybe not to this extent.

He's all over the news here in America and his face is everywhere you turn at the moment.

Some people have a problem with Conor's bravado, but I think it's pretty inspiring to see somebody with so much self-belief. People should look up to that and I think they do.

I'd like to see Conor at lightweight in the future because he cuts so much weight but he's talking of the possibly of defending his title against Frankie Edgar in Croke Park, which would be unbelievable.

The result would be the same, though - another left-hand knockout.

Cathal Pendred is a recently retired UFC fighter

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