Conor McGregor remains an oddity in the world of MMA, with a rise to fame (and notoriety) unlike anything we’d seen before or since. The former UFC lightweight and featherweight champion’s popularity and potency may be on the decline now, but his cash-cow status with the UFC is probably safe for at least another year or two.
When tracking McGregor’s rise to the summit of the sport, there are few moments that stand out like UFC Dublin.
UFC Fight Night 46 took place on July 19, 2014 in Dublin’s The O2 Arena (now named 3Arena). The card was heavy with local talent, including McGregor in the main event—his first for the company—opposite Diego Brandao. This was McGregor’s third UFC appearance. Further down the card were his teammates Gunnar Nelson, Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan.
The card had a party atmosphere unlike many others and the fans were rabid with excitement as they watched their favourites win fight after fight. The crowd was at fever-pitch when McGregor entered the arena and then dispatched of his Brazilian opponent by first round TKO.
That appearance established McGregor as the hottest prospect in the sport. Six months later he would be UFC featherweight champion. Since then the road has been more rocky than smooth for the Irish sports star.
One of the latest European fighters with a lot of hype behind him is Englishman Paddy Pimblett, who certainly seems to be taking notes from McGregor when it comes to selling a fight (and himself).
After winning titles with Cage Warriors he moved over to the UFC last year and won his debut fight, against Luigi Vendramini, by TKO. His second UFC bout is slated for this Sartuday, against Rodrigo Vargas. Coincidentally, this fight will also take place in The O2 Arena. However, this stadium is located in London, England and will be filled with fans rooting for Liverpool’s Pimblett.
Daniel Cormier, who knows a thing or two about big moments inside the Octagon, thinks UFC London is the perfect stage for Pimblett to have his own ‘McGregor-Moment’.
“You know what I think back to? I think back to Conor McGregor fighting Marcus Brimage in Ireland,” said Cormier, who forget it was Brandao McGregor faced on the Emerald Isle (ht sportskeeda). “He was young in his career, he had barely started, and he got to fight at home in front of those people and it just elevated him. Right away, Conor McGregor was on his way. They strapped the rocket ship to his back, and he was to the moon. Next thing you know they stuck him in Boston, where outside of being in Ireland, going to Boston is as close to Ireland as you can get. At every turn he took the right step.”
“If Pimblett goes and does something special on Saturday, it’ll be the same type of situation,” continued Cormier. “Like I said the only thing missing from his debut, was that massive explosion from the fans after he did what he did. If he can do that this weekend, he will get that, and then the highlight will play over and over again.”
Pimblett’s start to this week’s event has already been a little McGregorish. Yesterday he got into a scuffle at the fighter hotel with Ilia Topuria. The Georgian fighter had confronted Pimblett after ‘Paddy the Baddy’ made degrading comments about Georgian fighters and referenced the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia.
Disparaging a fighter’s culture and home country is another play right out of the McGregor handbook.