McGregor a winner regardless of Saturdays result

By Fergus O’Farrell (@fergtheiceburg)

As McGregor Mania spreads worldwide, one can’t help but reminisce of the darker days of Irish MMA. A little over three years ago Mixed Martial Arts featured on the Joe Duffy radio show. While RTE may have removed the content from their website they cannot remove the memories of those of us who listened to the show that day. The sounds of ‘They batter each other senseless Joe’, ‘human cockfighting’, ‘Blood, real Blood Joe’ and ‘It’s banned in America Joe’ still echo around my head whenever I think about that day. That day sticks with me; as an avid fan of Mixed Martial Arts it was quite demoralising seeing the sport I loved treated like a leper in a country with a rich fighting history. I had long been getting dodgy looks off people when I told them about my interest and had spent endless hours trying to explain it to my friends and family who did not comprehend the sport. While not necessarily surprising that day still hit home exactly how unpopular and seemingly irrelevant the sport was in this country. I retreated to the Mixed Martial Arts section on Boards to join in with the rest of the community as we reassured each other the sport had a place in this country.

Flash forward three years and the faith shown in the sport has been justified. The nation is buzzing with excitement ahead of this UFC’s card. Advertisements and interviews on all national radio stations and national newspapers, mainstream media glued with anticipation to the sport and a major TV deal just announced with Setanta. So what has changed since the Joe Duffy segment? Had a slipped into a coma, in my deflated state after listening to ‘Liveline’ and only awoken this week I would have been bemused as to the sudden change in opinions. Why the popularity? Has there been major rule changes in the sport? Have all other sports been abolished? Is Joe Duffy himself entering the Octagon? (And not our undefeated boxer). As it happens none of these events have occurred so why the new found interest?

The answer seems to be simple; the Rise and Rise of Conor McGregor. However there is a far more complex answer which involves the blood, sweat and man hours of a hundred unsung heroes. As McGregor carries the flag for Irish MMA he represents with great pride all the people who have contributed to its success. The coaches, fighters, training partners, promoters and fans that have allowed us to witness his success. However for the purposes of this blog I will just be focusing on the simple answer. On the 6th April 2013 McGregor was given the opportunity to show the world what Irish MMA knew for a long time. That this guy is an absolute superstar. And now as he readies himself for his fight with Max Holloway on Saturday 17th August the hype has reached gigantesque levels. McGregor has achieved two major feats in drawing attention to himself. Capturing the entire nation’s attention as well as capturing the attention of the international MMA fan. Now the hype is not restricted to the MMA sections on the Boards section a whole new group of people are exposed to McGregor’s fighting talents. Aside from the Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem I fail to remember a fighter with more hype surrounding them after one Octagon appearance. And it is probably unfair to compare Conor to those two men as they had previously attracted many fans outside of the Octagon. He was the only fighter not on the main card to be present at yesterday’s press conference. Also if we compare him to fellow Featherweight Steven Siler; he has ten times the amount of twitter followers, despite the fact Saturday will be Siler’s 6th Octagon appearance. It is not difficult to see why Conor has garnered so much media attention.

Being a Liverpool fan, this is one of the few times of the year when one can remain optimistic. While I feel Holloway is a very dangerous fight for Conor with a solid chin with impressive technique both standing and on the ground; I also know Conor has what it takes to finish him. At the same time this is Mixed Martial Arts, a sport in which upsets are synonymous; just ask Vinny Magalhares who went from being 4 to 1 on to unemployed in the space of one fight. However in my optimistic mood; it has dawned on me that McGregor may have already won a war before winning all his battles. He has broken down the stigma of the sport in this country and now endless possibilities lie ahead. If it can go from out casted to current popularity levels in three years imagine what another three years could do. I picture McGregor Vs. Aldo at Croke Parke. Too ambitious? Perhaps; but for now we want to say thank you to Conor McGregor and best of luck this Saturday. You have the nations support win lose or draw.

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