Sunday 18 February 2018

McGregor has the walk to match the talk for Ireland

Charismatic Conor deserves our support as he blazes way towards UFC superstardom

Conor McGregor (left) in action against Diego Brandao during Saturday's UFC featherweight bout at the O2. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Conor McGregor (left) in action against Diego Brandao during Saturday's UFC featherweight bout at the O2. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Colm Parkinson

Rory McIlroy's magnificent wire-to-wire British Open win, Shane Lowry's ninth-place finish after a final round of 65 and the four Irish fighters had a clean sweep in the O2 arena at UFC Fight Night 46.

McIlroy is already a world star that we're proud to call our own, but in Conor McGregor we have another world-class sports star on our hands.

The UFC is the fastest-growing sports organisation in the world. Their pay-per-view numbers are up there with boxing and wrestling in the USA, often exceeding both.

McGregor has taken the featherweight division by storm and after Saturday night's win he has moved up to 10th in the world rankings, although he told me last week when I interviewed him for the show that he's already No 1! He has three UFC wins from three fights, all impressive, dominating performances.

He is brash and cocky and knows how to promote himself and his fights. He has called out almost every top 10 fighter in the division already: he labelled champion Jose Aldo as someone who plays it safe, Cub Swanson and Denis Siver too old, Nik Lentz and Clay Guida boring and called Dustin Poirier a peahead – great stuff.

There is no filter, he says what he thinks – a quality I admire in sports stars. Outside of the trash-talking promotion game, he's a likeable and charismatic character.

His next fight will most likely be against the 'peahead' himself, Poirier, who is ranked sixth in the division. Judging by Poirier's comments this Monday it looks like this fight could well happen: "I mean, come on man. The guy runs his mouth too much. Right off the bat I'm fired up about this guy. I can't believe the hype this guy is getting man ... I think he is over-hyped, no doubt about it, 100pc. This guy says he's going to take everyone's head off, well come get it Conor, I'm waiting."

A win against Poirier would shoot McGregor to superstardom, if he's not there already.

The UFC is not everyone's cup of tea; some find it too violent while others find the wrestling and jujitsu aspects boring. However, McGregor is blazing a trail in it and deserves support from the Irish public. Judging from the ticket sales for UFC 46 and numbers watching on 3e, Irish fans are ready to get behind him.

I was in the O2 on Saturday and the atmosphere was incredible. All four Irish fighters got massive support and each one put in winning performances under severe pressure.

McGregor said in the build-up to the fight: "We're not here to take part, we're here to take over". I'm starting to believe him.

Irish Independent

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