Photos by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
It’s been a whirlwind 18 months for the Pied Piper of Irish mixed martial arts. From his stunning debut in Stockholm, to a career threatening injury only to a comeback as the protagonist of one of UFC’s loudest ever events in front of his hometown crowd, Conor McGregor is now staring at the most important test of his career.
There’s a lot at stake for the outspoken Dubliner. He has single handedly pushed his contest with Dustin Poirier to the forefront of the MMA world’s attention despite UFC 178 boasting a championship defense and the debut of one of the promotions most sought after talents, Eddie Alvarez.
Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, have had a crew following “The Notorious” for the second installment of their documentary series that initially began following the featherweight in the lead up to his sophomore performance in Boston. To add to that, a victory over Poirier could mean a title shot due to the momentum of the Straight Blast Gym man. “If Conor beats the number five guy in the world, look out,” said Dana White at Friday’s press conference.
And it doesn’t stop there for McGregor. It seems the silver tongued Celt has won over UFC brass with his pitch of Ireland’s Aviva Stadium for a possible venue for the promotion’s next trip to the Emerald Isle. The 50,000 seat venue would be a guaranteed sell out if McGregor keeps his winning streak alive.
One of the key aspects of the event for McGregor is its location. “Vegas means money,” the Irishman said of his MGM Grand appearance. Making their way to the weigh in fans would have noticed the posters of past blockbusters held in the venue that boasted some of combat sports’ modern day heroes—De la Hoya, Mayweather, Pacquaio, Lesner—and the John Kavanagh product is hell bent on surpassing the notoriety of them.
Despite all of this, there is a tranquility about McGregor ahead of his contest. “He’s up there chilling out, he’s in great form,” said his corner man Owen Roddy in the hotel’s foyer on Thursday night.
“I already know what’s going to happen after the weigh in,” said “Notorious” filmmaker Gavin Fitzgerald. “It’s already done for him at that point. He’ll be in his room as calm as can be. He’ll be laughing and cracking jokes. He knows he’s already got them at that stage. It’s an amazing thing to see.”
Regardless of how calm he may seem, in confrontation McGregor is as crude, obnoxious and volatile as Las Vegas Boulevard. As Dustin Poirier stripped down for his public weigh in his opponent was busy letting him know he was there. As the American flexed for the crowd, which was dominated by Irish support, McGregor stood beside him, stealing the moment with his own poses.
Already filmed leaving a room that he was standing in with McGregor for UFC’s Embedded series, the ATT man turned to the Irish crowd after he had successfully registered at 145 lbs. “This is my house,” he roared at the tri-color bearing droves as they threatened to burst through the boundaries separating them from the stage.
Poirier is the test McGregor needs. The former Cage Warriors double weight world champion has been quite public in dispelling his opponent as the biggest challenge of his career, but on paper it would seem Poirier definitely is. He’s been at the big show for quite awhile and he’s very comfortable in all aspects of his game.
He can strike, he can submit and having stumbled against top tier opponents Cub Swanson and Chan Sung Jung, he needs this win to force himself into the featherweight title conversation.
The evidence of McGregor’s grasp on the MMA mainstream was there for all to see with his travelling support on Friday, but it will be tonight’s test that will determine whether the Irishman can continue to tighten his grip and emerge as the next in line for a crack Jose Aldo’s title among the many other milestones he seems to be in touching distance of.
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