UFC talisman Conor McGregor arrived from Ireland on the afternoon of Friday, January 9, flying into Boston’s Logan Airport. His big night is Sunday, January 18 at Boston’s TD Gardens where he will face Dennis Siver in a heavily promoted fight (FOX are really pushing it even during NFL play-off game breaks).
Despite the long journey, McGregor sounded fresh and looked incredibly fit.
His bout with the German national Siver in the main event in UFC Fight Night 59, a set of twelve MMA bouts in the TD Garden in Boston. McGregor, currently ranked 5th in the featherweight division, is the prohibitive favorite over Siver, who is currently ranked 9th.
For Siver this bout is a big chance to move up in the rankings, closer to a title shot. For McGregor, the UFC has indicated that with a victory in Boston, he will get a title shot, squaring off next against the current featherweight champion, Brazilian star MMA fighter Jose Aldo, possibly in a 60,000 seat soccer stadium in Ireland to create the largest scale event in UFC history.
This fight is a very interesting match-up of styles, weapons, defenses, and potential tactics. McGregor is favored to win, but he faces his most experienced opponent to date, one whose career has experienced a late surge as Siver has dropped a weight class, gotten quicker, and gotten better at many tactics. The fight is scheduled to go five rounds of five minutes each.
Siver, at 35, is older, more experienced, and has amassed a professional record of 22 wins and 9 losses. He is a kickboxer who has successfully developed a wide range of other combat forms to succeed and rise into the top 10.
He is a narrow-stance, stand-up striker whose take down defense has become very good. His most potent weapon is blitzchnell – lightning-fast spinning back kick, that, if landed, can break ribs and finish a fight.
It is not an easy blow to land, and it will be especially difficult against McGregor, who has excellent vision, read, dodging, and counter-attacking abilities, perhaps the best in the division. Siver has also finished fights from the mat, grappling and choking for the win. His weaknesses may be in the reach department and in the quickness department where he will be hoping his drop in weight and the added speed he employs will be enough to fend off and essentially survive McGregor's excellent striking.
McGregor, at 26, is younger, and has amassed a professional record of 16 wins and 2 losses. He is a wide-stance striker who has also successfully developed a wide range of other combat forms to succeed and rise into the top 10.
His stand up striking skills are superb, his reach excellent, footwork exceptional. McGregor's take down defense is also excellent. His most potent weapon is his potent and fast straight arm left jab, that, when landed, can rock, reel, and knock down his opponent, which also often leads to further events that very quickly end the fight. That straight arm left jab cannot be stopped. At least nobody has yet successfully defended it.
McGregor has had an amazing rise for a foreign born UFC fighter. He himself was born and raised in Dublin, after his father left England at the age of 6 and moved to Ireland.
He got his start in the UFC by dispatching his opponents in Europe where he gained a ferocious reputation, winning two world titles, the Cage Warriors 145lb Champion and Cage Warriors 155lb Champion consecutively. Before that he won the Irish Amateur National Boxing Champion title.
Basically, he explained, he made it by winning everything he could at the lower level mixed martial art leagues until the UFC reached out to him and offered him a contract. Incidentally, along the way he earned a brown belt in Brazilian Ju Jitzu.
He is now widely and well-recognized in Ireland. There are large murals of him painted on O'Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. He says he is recognized practically every place he goes in Ireland and UFC fans are now everywhere.
Fame was certainly not one of his main objectives. He says he has been essentially “just doing his thing,” looking for victories in his discipline, trying to continuously get better at his craft. He says it does not really phase him, he has his focus elsewhere, on doing the things he needs to do, on excelling in his profession.
He won’t say what his toughest fight to date has been, but did say it "was not one of his opponents at all." No, he says it is the preparation he must complete before meeting his opponents, and the sacrifices – not having a social life etc..
In other words the grind, the constant preparation, and attention to the many details, from training to diet to stretching to rest and relaxation, all the things that go into becoming fully prepared to enter the octagon at one's best. Once he puts the preparation behind him, and finally arrives at that octagon door, to him, the rest is "a pleasure."
How about those who say UFC is at times too violent. He said that “combat is what it is, and it is not for everyone, not for the faint of heart.” Some people have no interest in combat, and he fully accepts that. He never tries to win over anybody who has no interest.
To his mind combat is “the purest form of sport, the very first sport humans engaged in.” He is absolutely fascinated by combat, and pleased that others share his fascination and appreciation, and enjoy combat.
As for the many injuries he receives, he says he is a big believer in self-healing, in using the power of one's mind. He believes in movement – the healing powers of movement, of keeping loose.
He places importance on the power of belief to enhance the body – to believe in recovery and wellness. He seems consumed with it. It is highly unusual, and it is highly likely to serve him very well, in the octagon, out of the octagon, now, and in years to come.
But first there is unfinished business in Boston to take care of.
* Thomas E. Jensen is a freelance journalist living Great Barrington, MA.