Sunday 21 January 2018

Barry McGuigan: Conor McGregor's boxing skills win him fights... he's a phenomenon

Conor McGregor, left, in action against Chad Mendes during their Interim UFC Featherweight Championship Title bout at UFC 189 last weekend.
Conor McGregor, left, in action against Chad Mendes during their Interim UFC Featherweight Championship Title bout at UFC 189 last weekend.

JOE CALLAGHAN reports from El Paso

THE Conor McGregor show is only getting started and it's very soon going to be too big for Ireland. That's the verdict of Barry McGuigan, the former world champion who admits he is a fully signed-up member of the Notorious fan club.

McGuigan and his protege, Belfast super bantamweight champion Carl Frampton, were busy Stateside in recent weeks preparing for Frampton's US debut in Texas on Saturday. However the entire McGuigan team still found time in their schedule to get in front of a screen and take in McGregor's sensational TKO of Chad Mendes at UFC 189 at the MGM Grand last weekend.

McGuigan, who knows all about gripping title fights in Vegas, admits that UFC is far from his first love. However he can't help but admire McGregor's meteoric rise. with rumours on Friday that McGregor's mouth-watering unification bout with Jose Aldo could be headed for the $1.5bn, 105,000-seater AT&T Stadium in Dallas before the end of the year.

"McGregor is a phenomenon," McGuigan said. "It is genuinely phenomenal, in the very meaning of the word. He is a one-off personality wise. He completely believes he can beat anybody. That is so important in this business of combat. I wouldn't be a major UFC fan, but I really respect the hell out of him.

"John Connor, who works with my son Shane [Frampton's trainer] at the Irish Strength Institute, we've been working together for the last three years. He works with McGregor too. So we would know him through that as well. We're all huge McGregor fans."

While he may not yet have won universal admiration at home, globally, McGregor is well on the way to becoming arguably the most popular Irish combat sports star since McGuigan.

With his promoter's hat on, the Hall of Famer, like McGregor a featherweight world champion, insists that with the mixed martial artist's popularity already sky-rocketing with each victory, the nature of the Mendes triumph has put the Dubliner's career into a new orbit. So much so that he will run out of venues to fight in at home.

"He's a southpaw and it's his boxing skills that wins him most of these fights," added McGuigan. "He's a puncher. He's not a grappler like the guy was the other night. And I swear to god I said it, I hadn't even sent out the tweet, it said 'Get on your feet McGregor, that's where you're doing your damage'.

"He hadn't been on his feet ten seconds and that was it, lights out. But it's everything with him, it's the skills, the passion, the adoration of the fans. There isn't an arena big enough for him back in Ireland."

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