Take a look at any trash bin in Boston right now and you will see UFC fighter, Conor McGregor, staring menacingly back at you with the Irish flag draped over his shoulder.
The Irish MMA fighter whose first headline fight against veteran UFC fighter, Denis Siver, at TD Garden took place on Sunday, was without doubt one of the most highly anticipated sporting events so far this winter. It was no surprise then, that when the UFC Fight Night 59 show finally rolled into town, the fans went wild.
Last Friday, Boston officially welcomed the UFC with open arms, as they held a meet and greet at Ned Devine's Irish Pub in Faneuil Hall. It was an opportunity for both the media and fans to come face to face with the Irish fighters who have been taking over the spotlight on both sides of the Atlantic.
Along with UFC's star headline fighter, Conor McGregor, was his peers from Ireland, Paddy Holohan, Cathal Pendred, and Norman Parkes who all fought on the card on January 18. Standing back to watch the reception was UFC President, Dana White.
A proud Irish-American, White, spoke to The Irish Emigrant about his thoughts on the talented Irish athletes involved with his successful mixed martial arts franchise as well as his thoughts on his star fighter, Conor McGregor.
"Being Irish is just one of those things,.... there is nothing like being Irish" laughed UFC President Dana White during a conversation on why the likes of McGregor have received such huge attention in America.
Citing the Cooney vs. Holmes fight of 1982, White said "Every time you find someone from Ireland that is a badass, or has Irish descent, ... [Mickey Rourke is flying in for the fight, [boxer] Mickey Ward will be there] ....everyone starts to surround [them] and [give them ]support".
"It's amazing how much talent is coming out of there [Ireland], there really is a lot of great talent, male and female," he remarked referring to Aisling Daly, Ireland's first MMA champion.
But why are they so talented, White believes it's as simple as "it is in the culture".
Further adding, "They don't call it the fighting Irish for nothing."
And one fighter who embodies 'badass' is Dublin native, Conor McGregor.
White said of his star fighter, "[Mcgregor] is a one in a million athlete who speaks so well, [and] gets people so energized and has amazing charisma, so that doesn't hurt neither."
The chief of the UFC whose worth is reported at $300 million is hoping to expand the franchise into new markets, Poland and South Korea this year, but says the attention the UFC has received in Ireland has been "insane".
"..obviously, I am Irish, so I like it...," he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Continuing "To have Ireland going off the way that it is, to have all these guys who are stars now from Ireland is really cool and fun for me."
"Imagine if Conor wins a belt," he mused "There is no doubt, he [Conor McGregor ] is on the tipping point, winning this fight would put him in line for a title".
During this conversation, White admitted that "it would be rough" if McGregor were to lose to veteran fighter Siver and he agreed such a result would lead to there being "a lot of bummed out Irish people".
However, as it was, McGregor delivered with a two-bout win over veteran Russian-German fighter, Denis Siver.
White praised the Dublin native and said in the press conference after the fight that he believed the 26-year-old fighter was "the real deal".
The UFC president also confirmed that rather than staging the title fight in Croke Park in Ireland as was touted in the media for a long time, the stage for the Irish fighter's anticipated fight against José Aldo will be in Las Vegas this May.
Citing numerous reasons such as the time, the pay-per-view subscribers, White also said the cost of production were all factors in his decision, laughing, he said referring to the need for a tent over the octagon for the outside venue in Dublin " I am not a meteorologist but I betcha it's going to rain".
Some of the photos from UFC Fight Night 59 weekend
- The Irish Emigrant - Local News & Events
- The Irish Emigrant - Boston/New England Calendar of Events
- IrishCentral Community News - NY/Tri State Calendar of Events