via Severe MMA
UFC unveiled a massive billboard on Dublin’s O’Connell Street last Thursday in celebration of Conor McGregor’s quick finish of Dustin Poirier at UFC 178. Yet another sign of the unparalleled interest that surrounds the SBG fighter having previously been honoured in two murals in the Irish capital, he discussed how he tries not to get too caught up in the mania that surrounds him.
“It’s surreal,” acknowledged McGregor. “I try not to think too much about these things. There are murals on the side of some buildings and then we had this thing on O’Connell Street. I’m very grateful for all of the support but I try not to think about it.
“This is the beginning, I’m only warming up here. At the end of the day I’m out to get a world title and that’s all that’s on my mind. I feel the support of my nation, I just embrace it and carry on doing what I’m doing.”
The cultural resonance of McGregor seems to be incomparable to any athlete that his country has produced and when asked about it, the Dubliner likened the support he receives to fellow combat sportsman Ricky Hatton.
“I suppose you could compare it to Ricky Hatton and the way his fans were at the height of his career. It’s phenomenal, but again it’s only the warm-up. We’re only doing jumping jacks at the minute.
“I wasn’t expecting the support I got in Vegas. I wasn’t expecting it, I don’t think the UFC were expecting it. Just before I walked on stage to weigh in the day before the fight we were all backstage and all we could hear was ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ – everyone heard it including my opponent.
“The Irish were in town, it was brilliant. It’s something that I’m very, very proud of and something that I’m grateful for,” he said.
September 28’s bout with Dustin Poirier gave McGregor exactly what he was looking for. The 106 second KO cemented him as one of the most dangerous strikers in UFC’s featherweight division and also propelled him into the title conversation, but the former Cage Warriors double weight champion maintained that he does not believe in celebrating too much after a win.
“I don’t really have any emotion after the fight to be honest. I said I was going to do it and then I done it. I don’t gloat in victory, when the fight is over it’s over. I don’t rub anything in.
“Had it been the other way around, if he had beaten me, you better believe he would’ve rubbed it in my face. I’m not like that. I predicted everything that would happen like I usually do and then it happened. I don’t get excited, it was already a certainty, I celebrated when I signed the contract.
“If you do what you say you’re going to do look what happens? I’ve skipped the queue and now I’m the world title contender, I’m number one contender. My next fight is most likely going to be for the title. After that there will be no catching me,” he exclaimed.
There is a lot of talk with regard to how many fights the Irishman has left at featherweight and when it was put to him McGregor revealed that his ideal trajectory would see him win the featherweight title early next year, defend it in the 50,000 seat Aviva Stadium in the summer before moving up to challenge for the lightweight belt.
“If a 155 fight came up I will take it. I’m only gone 26, I’m not going to be making featherweight my whole career, it’s a tough cut. I do it and I do it professionally, but it’s tough.
“I’ll win the belt, maybe I’ll defend it in the Aviva and then I’ll challenge for the lightweight belt, then who knows? That’s definitely in my plans, you better believe that,” he said.
McGregor stated that the Aviva show would be going ahead in the summer:
“It’s going to be in the summer. I’ll win the belt, possibly in January or February in Vegas and then I’ll defend it in the Aviva in June or July. It’s definitely in the Aviva next summer.”
Finally, McGregor commented on the first losses of his team mates Gunnar Nelson and Paddy Holohan.
He said: “They say a loss can make or break a fighter, but I think the same can be said for a victory. Some people get sloppy on a win and ultimately that can lead to their downfall.
“I can’t answer for Gunni or Paddy, they were both in very tough contests. If you look at the early rounds superior technique was displayed by both Gunni and Paddy, they won the early rounds.
“When energy levels were identical, we were superior technically. Then, when energy levels were down, that’s when the change started happening. It’s not really that much of a big deal – you brush it off and you come back. Defeat is the secret ingredient to success.
“In anything you must lose a million times before you can start to win so this is just part of their journey. They lost this last one, they’ll brush it off and they’ll be back – there’s no doubt about it.”