The Pied Piper of Irish MMA Has Taken Over the Game

Fightland Blog

By Peter Carroll

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada Conor McGregor raised gold in front of thousands of Irish fans that gave UFC one of the most memorable events in the history of the promotion.

It was a big night for the Zuffa company with a host of new elements being rolled out including new graphics on their broadcasts, the controversial Reebok kits and of course, the addition of celebrated musicians to sing out main eventers McGregor and Mendes.

Sinead O’Connor being elevated over the tunnel that McGregor walked out of on his way to the Octagon provided an iconic moment for the spectators. A green mist surrounded the Irish singer as ‘The Notorious’ made his way to his stage as the captivated audience roared their support for the Dubliner.

The Irish provided a perfect backdrop for the whole week leading up the interim featherweight challenge. Throughout the week they turned out in their droves with their stadium chants and Irish flags to give the marquee event a passionate, electrifying feel.

Such was the support ‘The Notorious’ garnered throughout the week, UFC saw it fit to open the MGM Garden Arena for the public weigh ins that went on to become the biggest weigh in event the organization had ever held.

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Never before has there been someone that has captivated the imaginations of the Irish as much as McGregor. Over 10,000 Irish descended on ‘Sin City’ to see their man go about his business and the atmosphere at both the weigh in and have been adamantly compared to one of Ireland’s great run in World Cup Italia ’90.

The Irish soccer team’s successful run to the quarterfinals of the competition brought a massive amount of pride to the nation. There is no doubt that the SBG featherweight has instilled a similar pride in this generation of fans who made the journey to ‘Sin City’. They wave their tricolors full of enthusiasm for McGregor, and they sing the same songs that were synonymous with the Italia ’90 team.

“You’ll never beat the Irish,” they sing, but in reality, the nation does get beaten quite often in most sports. They see McGregor competing with the best fighters in the world and it gives them something to be proud of. Being Irish has become cool again because of the interim champion. On the back of his UFC debut and subsequent interviews, he has introduced MMA to a whole nation—he is the Pied Piper of the sport in Ireland.

He made no bones about his intention to “take over the game” as soon as he banked his first win under the banner and after capturing the interim title on Saturday night, he now believes he is “running” the show for UFC.

“Right now, I’m running the game,” said McGregor in the post fight press conference. “I have every record in the book—the gate, the pay per view. I’ve got all the viewers on Fox and UFC Fight Pass and I’ve got the highest attended weigh ins. I have every record right now and at the end of the day I’m still only 26 years of age.

“I am still very, very young in this game. I feel like it’s myself and Ronda Rousey (at the top). Ronda is an absolute animal. I relate to Ronda a lot because she put in a lot media wise and training wise. I look at her and I take a great inspiration from her.”

Dana White echoed the sentiments of the Irishman, insisted he is the biggest draw in the sport.

“Conor just out drew everybody,” said White speaking at the post-fight press conference. “This is the biggest gate in US history. In years of fights this is the biggest fight ever. The gate was at 6.8 million leading up to Aldo’s injury and when Chad Mendes stepped in it still went up to 7.1 million.”

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Another thing that endears McGregor to his employers is the fact that he is, in his own words, “a work horse.”

‘The Notorious’ had such a hectic schedule in the lead up to the Mendes contest, including an appearance on Conan O’Brien, that many media analysts believed that he simply had too much on his plate to have a successful outing at UFC 189. His ability to sell fights and still get in and do the business makes him the “golden boy” for the promotion.

Although he cited the fact that he needed some time away from the glare of the media, Dana White has announced him as a coach of the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. Despite the press release in circulation citing the fact that the reality series is “the highest rated and most watched original program since the network’s inception in August 2013”, it seems to have lost it’s relevance amongst the MMA hardcore. McGregor is undoubtedly the man to bring it back to the people it was originally geared towards and of course, a whole new audience.

Another thing he has done is flood Las Vegas, and in particular the MGM Grand, with money due to his amorphous Irish following. All through the weekend, the Irish were partying throughout the night with most bars in the casino being full until 8 am each morning.

With a lot of speculation surrounding a potential January 2nd date with Jose Aldo in Sin City, he will no doubt have even more fans make the journey to claim they were a part of his meteoric journey. 


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