Irish UFC champ Conor McGregor seeks a title fight sooner rather than later

UFC’s Irish star Conor McGregor is enjoying the spoils of his rise to fame but won’t be letting his focus waver as he seeks a title fight sooner rather later, writes Brendan O’Brien

IT’S only been three months since Conor McGregor left life on the dole queue behind by subjecting the American Marcus Brimage to a KO after just 67 seconds of his debut Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout in Sweden.

It was a performance good enough to earn the $60,000 prize on offer for ‘Knockout of the Night’ and McGregor’s meteoric rise in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) continued this month when UFC president Dana White feted and ferried him around Las Vegas in a Ferrari.

Many a nascent sports star has found their long-term prospects careering off the one true path to success having had their heads turned in such a fashion, but the 25-year-old McGregor displays a Zen-like calm and control when discussing his recent elevation to the fast lane.

“Most people probably think things like meeting the boss and being made feel part of the furniture means they can never be cut or they don’t have to show up in shape and come fight day they show up sluggish or sloppy, but that’s not me. I don’t get comfortable.

“I don’t think just because I’m on personal terms with the boss... I don’t plan on getting lazy. If anything, that Vegas trip spurred me on more, showed me what can really happen, what I can really achieve as long as I stay in shape and keep my mental game the way it is.”

That isn’t to say he didn’t appreciate sharing $300 Kobe steaks and seeing the sights. With his dapper blazer and dickie-bow ensemble, he has an appreciation for the finer things in life, but it was the conversation more than food that interested him in Nevada.

McGregor’s second fight at featherweight under the UFC umbrella comes in Boston on August 17, but he has declared his readiness for a title shot. White has instead counselled patience and steady progress for a man whom he seems sure will be a major star in his sport’s firmament.

The Irishman agrees.

“The definition of a true martial artist to me is a man with an open mind, is open to all styles of combat,” said the man nicknamed ‘The Notorious’.

“That’s me. The human body can move in many ways and I am looking to learn all those styles. I am unpredictable.

“Bruce Lee was asked in a film about the highest level of technique he hoped to achieve and the highest technique he hopes to achieve is to have no technique. I agree with that: to be unpredictable and to move in many ways. I believe that is why I am dangerous.”

Talking to McGregor brings to mind the hyper-focused Steve Collins, who so freaked Chris Eubank out back in the 1990s and his determination to succeed was never more obvious than when talk turned to his spartan diet.

Let’s just say, Ricky Hatton this guy ain’t.

THE timing of McGregor’s rise is fortuitous for a domestic audience that will be able to watch UFC on Setanta Sports for the first time in four years after yesterday’s announcement that it is returning to Irish screens as part of the station’s tie-in with BT Sport.

As well as McGregor’s Boston fight against Max Holloway, Setanta will also be showing UFC 163 from Rio de Janeiro earlier in the month with the main event pitting world featherweight champion Jose Aldo against Chan Sung Jung, aka the Korean Zombie.

Only the second Irishman to compete under the auspices of UFC, McGregor is confident that White’s organisation will bring a similar fightcard to Dublin by April of next year, but he takes serious umbrage at the suggestion that a move Stateside would benefit his career.

“There’s that thing again: ‘What you’re looking for is out there. The training is not as good here. The set-up isn’t as good here.’ Says who? People are always saying you have to move to America, that the standard is better over there. I have been to America. We go hard over here.

“There are a lot of hungry athletes here in all styles of combat. We have successful boxers, as you know. Our Olympians are some of the best in the world. We have high-level Thai boxers, high-level jiujitsu practitioners, high-level freestyle wrestlers, taekwondo stars.

“We have got it all here. You are in the wrong mind-frame. I believe in my training and training partners.”

He believes in himself.

Remember the name.

*Setanta Sports will be screening over 30 live UFC events per year as well as additional programming such as the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ and ‘Inside the Octagon’.

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