Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor “blew away” the competition in his debut at the Ultimate Fighting Championship last week, attracting a storm of media attention and even the praise of UFC president Dana White.
Conor made his debut fighting Marcus Brimage in the fourth fight of a 13-fight card. This portion of the event is known as the ‘undercard’ or ‘prelims’ and act as a prelude to the main fights of the evening. Depending on the event there’s no guarantee that the prelims will be aired as part of the TV broadcast.
Conor’s presence boosted the attendance for the prelims thanks to a large number of travelling Irish fans and some locals curious at attention Conor drew from the global MMA media outlets.
Walking out to the belly of the Globen Arena in Stockholm, Conor stole the show from the start.
With no trace of nerves he shadow boxed in the middle of the Octagon as if he was back home in the SBGi gym on the Longmile Road.
Once the fight began it was never close at any stage. Adopting an unorthodox almost karate stance, Conor was picking his shots at will. After a devastating combination of uppercuts, Brimage crumbled to the mat after just over a minute’s worth of action. Conor followed him to the floor with a hail of punches, forcing the referee to intervene and wave off the fight.
In 67 seconds, Conor had transformed from regional contender to global superstar.
The repercussions of Conor’s fight will endure far longer than the 67 seconds the fight lasted. The UFC TV production crew were the first to act as they replayed Conor’s fight during the main TV broadcast, the only prelim fight to make it.
To say UFC president Dana White was impressed is an understatement. Speaking at the post fight press conference in Sweden, White gushed about Conor: "Let me put it this way - I'm blown away! First of all, it's his first fight ever in the UFC. He walked out tonight and got into the octagon like it was his 100th fight in the UFC. From the minute it all started, he was nice and relaxed. He moved around. Even after he gets the knockout, it's like he's been here before and done it 100 times. Kid is totally relaxed. He's a beast. I'm impressed."
White also awarded Conor €60,000 in the form of a ‘Knock-Out of the Night’ bonus that are a feature of all UFC events.
White went on to say McGregor would fight again for the UFC in August in Boston. Normally, this level of match-making eagerness is normally reserved for main event fighters or title contenders, not for a fighter in the middle of the undercard.
Earlier this week it was revealed that the UFC is expected to return to Ireland later this year for the first time since it was here in January 2009. Conor had made no secret that his presence in the UFC would double as a personal crusade to drag the world’s largest MMA promotion back to Ireland.
Though he’s clearly enjoying the moment, Conor is not overawed by his UFC experience. Speaking just after his fight, he was quite philosophical on what had just happened.
"Coming into UFC didn't feel any different, a contest is a contest. I didn't feel nervous, it's all just competition. I had a problem with my wisdom teeth in the week, but nothing would have stopped me going into the Octagon, I would have fought. The Irish fans here were great, it's all happening back home…I can really feel the buzz from back home."
Conor’s coach John Kavanagh had been keeping a video diary of the ‘fight week’ in Sweden. The video captures ‘fight day’ and includes footage of Conor having a wisdom tooth removed only days earlier.
MMA fans all over the world now know who Conor McGregor is. It’s only right that everybody in Ireland know who he is too.