UFC: Conor McGregor to make anticipated Swedish debut
I rang Dana White a couple of weeks ago when he was in Dublin. I had prepared for the interview as I usually would but what transpired was more of a general chat about fighters than anything else. Contrary to what many believe White is a fan first and foremost. Speak to anyone who knows the UFC President and they will regale you with tails of how the former Boston based would-be fighter and manager of Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell obsesses about combat sports. So with questions about White’s acceptance of an honorary award from the city’s prestigious Trinity College and the Barao versus McDonald title fight firmly consigned to the dustbin White talked at length about fighters and what makes them tick. What brought the subject to the fore was a suggestion by yours truly that “Suga” Rashad Evans’ recent slump in form may have been caused by his rift with and subsequent departure from Greg Jackson’s Albuquerque fight team. It appeared pretty logical in the mind’s eye of this scribe… Evans had been inextricably linked to Jackson and Winkeljohn, had matured to the status of world champion within the confines of their New Mexico base and had been inspired by a cauldron of top tier scrappers to fulfil a potential which had been blatantly apparent since he first stepped onto the set of The Ultimate Fighter II. Severance from the virtual incubation unit which had made him the martial artist that he was had lead in my mind to Evans losing the momentum, instinct, call it what you will, which lead him to the heady heights of defeating Forrest Griffin at UFC92 for the UFC light heavyweight championship of the world. “Not so” stated White, with the kind of certainty only displayed by someone with intimate knowledge of the situation.
White attributes Evans recent skid of 0-2, his first ever sequence of back to back losses in the Octagon, to one simple factor, hunger. Possibly the most powerful man in MMA pointed to the millions which Evans has accrued from the fight game as the crucial factor which in essence eradicated the aforementioned hunger which drove him to success in the first place.
Half an hour later I bid farewell to White as he continued his jaunt around Dublin’s cobbled streets. I pondered that intangible of “hunger” which can only be truly verified in the white heat, gut-check moment of battle. The conversation had also turned to one fighter White, Joe Rogan and Co. are looking forward to seeing in the Octagon. I’ve interviewed a multitude of fighters of different nationalities and backgrounds, SBG Ireland’s Conor McGregor is without doubt one of the hungriest out there.
If hunger is one essential attribute of a top mixed martial artist, self confidence is undoubtedly another, “Notorious” has both in abundance. The former two divisional champion of top European promotion Cage Warriors explained how he learnt that his shot at the UFC was just around the corner
“I was sitting chilling with a friend of mine and the phone rang with an Icelandic number. It was my coach John Kavanagh who asked “how would you like to make your UFC debut on nine weeks notice. I didn’t have to think about it twice and I know it sounds clichéd but it really is a dream come true”.
McGregor was quick to emphasise the role that his coach John Kavanagh has had in his career and indeed life to date.
“I couldn’t do anything without John Kavanagh, he believed in me when no one else did. I’m fighting for my family and for myself.”
McGregor makes it patently clear from the off that he is not travelling to Stockholm and beyond to make up the numbers
“I’m looking forward to mixing it up man, I think I’ve a lot to offer the guys in the UFC. I don’t believe in octagon jitters. I appreciate the support I’m getting and I feed off the energy from the fans but at the end of the day it all comes down to just me and my opponent.”
McGregor went on to explain how he hones the mental side of his game.
“I’m big into visualisation. I have visualised every part of my career and thus far all of its come true. I don’t worry about my opponent or their game. I worry about my game. I just want to learn and improve. Marcus Brimage-he’s 5 foot four and a southpaw, we watched some tape on him at the start of camp and that’s been it. He’s just another opponent in the same way that whilst the UFC is the big league, this really is just another fight. Whether you fight in front of one person or ten thousand it’s the same thing when it comes down to it. Me and my opponent in there in a fight, a competition, that’s it at the end of the day. Nothing else matters except the fight.”
I had some prior conceptions about McGregor – he is confident of that there is no doubt, but he’s also quite likeable and I think he will prove to be a marketing dream for the UFC. But first up Marcus “The Bama Beast” Brimage and regardless of the sound-bites McGregor isn’t taking him for granted. I see Brimage being a tough debut but the 24-year-old Crumlin native should have enough to stop the American inside the distance.Tagged in: Conor McGregor, ufc
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