'Conor McGregor's passion for Ireland sent a shiver down my spine' - Irish football legend Paul McGrath
Irish soccer legend Paul McGrath has opened up on his admiration for Conor McGregor, even though he admits he finds MMA a little barbaric.
Speaking to sundayworld.com, McGrath has compared the euphoria surrounding McGregor’s rise to superstardom to the kind excitement the Republic of Ireland team he was a part of at the 1990 World Cup finals generated back home, as he offered up a glowing tribute to the UFC champion.
“What I most like about him is the way he carries himself as an Irishman,” declared McGregor. “He plays the role brilliantly. Fair play to him, he’s making an awful lot of money while making people happy.
“I remember the first time I saw him in action. I was at home on my own, flicking across the channels. McGregor was fighting in Dublin.
“What I loved was his fearless gladiator shtick; he was pure theatre, a showman speaking confidently, articulately, and unapologetically about Ireland. And honestly, it sent a shiver down my spine. I was hooked.”
However, McGrath concedes that his affection for McGregor does not extend to every aspect of the sport he has dominated for the last couple of years.
“I’m not an avid fan of MMA; in truth I find elements of it a little barbaric,” he stated. “I love boxing, but the damage that can be done is immense. UFC it is at a whole new level. Lord, some of those lads take a serious battering.
“Now, hitting a guy when he is defenceless on the floor, knocking 60 shades out of him, I’m not so sure about that. As I said, elements of the sport are borderline.”
McGrath also revealed he was stunned by the responses when he posted positive messages about McGregor on his Twitter account.
“When I heard Sinead O’Connor singing The Foggy Dew, when I saw the number of Irish fans he brought to Vegas for UFC 202, it brought me back to the great days under Jack Charlton for the Ireland national team,” he added.
“Here it was again, sport offering a vessel for the nation to put its troubles to one side and just revel in the joy of identity, a raucous, uplifting celebration of Irishness.
I sent a tweet out about him. I was surprised with some of the responses.
“Some people thought I was wrong to be saying anything good about a sport they regarded as legalised savagery, a tasteless and Neanderthal spectacle they were convinced should be banned, but I wasn’t actually advocating mixed martial arts.
“In truth, I wouldn’t want my kids or grandkids taking up the sport. From a worried parent’s point of view, the potential for catastrophe is immediately evident.
“The fascination for me (I regard representing my country at Italia ‘90 among the highpoints of my life), was his evident pride in place. Honestly, Conor had me - bad knees and all - bouncing with fervour.”