Saturday 16 December 2017

'Back to America for the gold and the silk'- Conor McGregor leaves Ireland for battle with Dos Anjos

Conor McGregor faces Rafael Dos Anjos on March 5
Conor McGregor faces Rafael Dos Anjos on March 5

Tom Rooney

Conor McGregor departed for American today in a bid to achieve his dream of being the first man ever to consecutively hold world titles in two divisions by dethroning lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 196.

Las Vegas is fast becoming a second home to the proud Dubliner, professionally at least, with the contest on March 5 the fourth occasion he has fought in Sin City.  He took to Twitter this morning to say Bon Voyage in his own inimitable fashion.

The fluorescent hue of the strip has, thus far, made for a happy hunting ground for McGregor. More precisely, the MGM Grand Garden Arena has been the venue for his dispatching of Dustin Poirier, Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo.

It is there where McGregor will face the most daunting task of his professional life in the form of Dos Anjos. There is nothing hyperbolic to that notion, in fact, since finishing Diego Brandao in July 2014, his level of competition has risen steadily, with the exception of Dennis Siver just over a year ago.

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Dos Anjos has claimed victories in 10 of last 11 fights and, one week after McGregor took the featherweight strap from Aldo, he defended his title for the first time by ruthlessly disposing of Donald Cerrone in just 66 seconds. The Brazilian has used Kings MMA stable mate Lyoto Machida to ready for McGregor.

Though now a middleweight, Machida was once the UFC's light-heavyweight champion and, for time, was considered the most evasive fighter in the sport.

Dos Anjos dominated the heavily favoured Anthony Pettis to win the lightweight crown and can claim wins over Nick Diaz and former champion Benson Henderson, both of whom have competed at welterweight with varying results.

Just like his preparation for Jose Aldo, McGregor has chosen to undertake the vast majority of his training camp in Dublin, within the confines of the SBG Ireland gym.

Speaking last October, the then UFC interim featherweight champion discussed his desire to remain on home soil for as along as possible in preparation for future fights. The 10-week adventure that was The McMansion in Las Vegas proved a mixed experience.

Fighting at lightweight for the first time since 2013, McGregor has cut a far more considerable figure of late and has made SBG light/welterweight Peter Queally (see above) his main sparring partner, as supposed to Artem Lobov, who is a natural featherweight.

Of course, Gunnar Nelson has also been a regular face on the Long Mile Road of late, though the 'Notorious' will not share the card with any teammates or compatriots. In the co main event Holy Holm defends the belt she took from Ronda Rousey against perennial contender Miesha Tate.

Meanwhile, the UFC are set to make further inroads into mass mainstream audiences around Europe and beyond after the mixed martial arts promotion agreed an editorial and promotional partnership with BBC Three.

On their brand new digital platform, BBC Three will provide users with a vide variety of UFC related content and information.

And, the new agreement will come into immediate effect starting this Saturday, with UFC Fight Night: Silva v Bisping in London’s 02 Arena.

The event is to be exclusively streamed in Europe on the UFC’s digital platform, Fight Pass, but the BBC will provide a live blog of all 13 scheduled contests. Furthermore, the broadcaster will, on a continued basis, give coverage of UFC events in the Europe, Middle East and Asia markets.

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