Between rounds of shadowboxing, a teenage fan approaches and extends his arm. McGregor smiles, shaking the outstretched hand. The teenager, looking at his hand covered in McGregor’s sweat, quickly pulls out his mobile phone and makes a call.
“Guess who I just met!” he hollers.
Being treated with such reverence is a very new feature in McGregor’s life. Earlier this year the Dubliner was lining up in dole queues, angering his parents who urged him to do something productive instead of wasting time doing “cage fighting”.
Things changed in April when he was given an opportunity to fight at an event in Sweden staged by the UFC, the premier mixed martial arts (MMA) organisation. McGregor knocked out his American opponent in 67 seconds, earning a $60,000 (€45,000) bonus with a performance that electrified the niche but passionate global MMA community.
The UFC have a keen liking for McGregor, with its president Dana White taking the Irishman on a trip to Las Vegas where they whizzed around the city in White’s Ferrari. Today McGregor, 25, will be fighting in front of an expected 15,000-plus crowd in Boston’s TD Garden as part of a UFC show that is the centrepiece of the US launch-day for the new TV channel FOX Sports 1.
McGregor’s opponent is Hawaiian native Max Holloway, who at 21 is the youngest fighter in the UFC. But McGregor isn’t concerned: “I don’t fear anyone,” said bluntly. “I’m ready right now to fight anyone in the weight class.”
One interested spectator at McGregor’s Boston training session was Tom Egan. A childhood friend of McGregor, Egan was the first Irishman to compete in the UFC back in 2009.