Conor McGregor has said he, like all combat sports fans and fighters, is struggling to process the death of MMA fighter Joao Carvalho in Beaumont Hospital last night, writes Stephen Barry.
McGregor was ringside at the Total Extreme Fighting event at the National Stadium on Saturday, where he was supporting his Straight Blast Gym teammate Charlie Ward in the bout against Carvalho.
McGregor paid tribute to Carvalho, who became gravely ill soon after the fight ended via a technical knockout and died 48 hours later, as a “champion, who pursued his dream doing what he loved” and “one of us”.
McGregor added: “To see a young man doing what he loves, competing for a chance at a better life, and then to have it taken away is truly heartbreaking.
“We are just men and women doing something we love in the hope of a better life for ourselves and our families. Nobody involved in combat sports of any kind wants to see this. It is such a rare occurrence that I don't know how to take this.
“I was ringside supporting my teammate, and the fight was so back and forth, that I just can't understand it.
“My condolences go out to Joao's family and his team. Their man was a hell of a fighter and will be sorely missed by all.”
The acting Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, speaking on Newstalk FM in the last few minutes, said that he was concerned that MMA was not a recognised sport with Sport Ireland, the Government body for sport.
“It’s not a recognised sport, it hasn’t been recognised by the Sports Council and isn’t funded by Government,” said Minister Ring.
“We need to see what we can do to get these people regulated in this country.”
McGregor, the UFC featherweight champion, defended the sport against the criticisms being made since Carvalho's death.
“Combat sport is a crazy game and with the recent incident in boxing (the injury to Nick Blackwell) and now this in MMA, it is a sad time to be a fighter and a fight fan,” said McGregor.
“It is easy for those on the outside to criticise our way of living, but for the millions of people around the world who have had their lives, their health, their fitness and their mental strength all changed for the better through combat, this is truly a bitter pill to swallow.”