Conor McGregor and his flashy ways pack biggest punch

The Dublin fighter is the big noise in what is the ultimate in crowd collaboration

Ireland’s Conor McGregor and Diego Brandao of Brazil do battle at the UFC fight night on Saturday at the O2 in Dublin. Photograph: Rodrigo Romos/Inpho

Ireland’s Conor McGregor and Diego Brandao of Brazil do battle at the UFC fight night on Saturday at the O2 in Dublin. Photograph: Rodrigo Romos/Inpho

Mon, Jul 21, 2014, 07:00

Biggie Biggie Biggie can’t you see?

Sometimes your words just hypnotise me

And I just love your flashy ways

Guess why they so broke, and you get paid.

As far as entrance music goes, Conor “The Notorious” McGregor couldn’t have chosen better. He’s the BIG noise in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) at the moment, having solidified his credentials with a first-round stoppage of Diego Brandao in front of his hometown fans on Saturday.

It was Brandao’s 10th pro defeat, but anyone who has truck with that clearly hasn’t been reading up on their fight promotion manual. The Brazilian was a step up after a lengthy injury lay-off for McGregor, but it took the Dubliner little over four minutes to end the much anticipated contest that was set for a maximum of 25.

Not that it mattered to most of the 9,500 in the O2. Over the preceding four hours there was a smorgasbord of rear naked chokes, arm triangles and knockout blows.

Some people like fighting and more people like to watch it – as financial models go it’s a good place to start. There are times when some skirmishes would look more at home if viewed in grainy CCTV footage, but the UFC is merely a smartly packaged version of fairly main stream martial arts.

From the gleeful terrace cheers of “whaaaaaaay” as Dubliner Neil Seery repeatedly kicked the left buttock of England’s Phil Harris – who when put to ground resorted to remaining on his back and kicking skywards to keep his aggressor at bay – to the flinching “ooohs” when the unintentional kicks to the groin traded by Ian “Uncle Creepy”McCall and Brad “One Punch” Pickett were shown again on the big screens; this was the ultimate in crowd collaboration.

And it was perfectly orchestrated by stompingly cheesy Lakeside dance tracks and hitherto forgotten heavy metal. Pickett’s Chaz and Dave intro provided some genuine light relief.

But would those who don’t know their arm bar from their tow bar be anywhere near the place if it weren’t for McGregor?

The 26-year-old transcends the sport here already; a fashion icon, there were grown men dandying their way around the old Point Theatre on Saturday, resplendent in dickie bows and waistcoats, all tied to together by their balls out swagger and cheery disposition.

No Irish sportsman or woman has created such a sub-culture. It’s a phenomenon usually reserved for footballers and rock stars but McGregor has infiltrated the hearts and minds of every part of the country and beyond.

He treads a very fine line between arrogance and humility; he knows when the time is right to rein it in and just when you think “ah, here”, he dispenses a charming quip, a show of respect for his opponent or a heartfelt eulogy to his Straight Blast Gym mentor John Kavanagh.

His words can hypnotise even himself and if mixed martial arts wasn’t his bag, somewhere in a parallel universe McGregor would be selling something else to people who weren’t even sure they wanted it or needed it.

Right now, though, he and his flashy ways are selling the UFC and getting rewarded. Next stop Las Vegas, according to UFC president Dana White.

While the Dublin event was a commercially successful courtesy call, there appeared little to suggest in the press conference with White afterwards that a return was on the cards any time soon. To be a regular stop the O2 simply isn’t big enough and talk of football stadiums was quickly dampened by White’s concerns over the weather.

Passionate exiles

He could always put McGregor on the phone to the roofed Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and tap into the UK market and those passionate exiles that mobilise so well for Irish rugby and soccer, but White seems at times to genuinely want McGregor to slow down.

The Crumlin fighter’s grand “visions” make the American a little nervy, particularly, perhaps, the one after Saturday’s bout that predicted an Irishman might at some stage be standing at the president’s post-fight podium.

McGregor is from a generation that suffered a monumental shake down by The Man six years ago. His response was to become The Man and take his fair share. So far it’s working out quite nicely for him.

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