Time for Conor McGregor to prove he’s more than media gold
After nearly coming to blows at the weigh-in on Friday night, Conor McGregor will square off with American Chad Mendes in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, in the Irishman’s toughest fight to date.
Irish MMA featherweight fighter Conor McGregor is the golden boy of UFC. That’s what UFC owner Dana White says, and so does White’s bank manager, the broadcasters, McGregor’s girlfriend, and McGregor himself.
So does Ireland in fact. So too does almost any Murphy Bar in America. His verbose and articulate, provocative and funny style, means he’s selling tickets like none that went before him in UFC history.
“Four minutes into the first round, he will be unconscious,” McGregor said of Mendes recently in a press conference.
McGregor stormed onto the UFC scene just two years ago and while his peers called him the ‘joker’, claiming he’s all mouth and no trousers – ‘Notorious’ was punching holes through his opponents faces – and has tallied a five-fight winning streak.
He soon became the UFC poster boy.
McGregor brags often about his custom-made suits – is the master of parade and hyperbole, but so far he’s proved to be also a serious threat to the division, with his combination of heavy hands and fast feet, and his his bucket-loads of charisma.
“He liked to counterpunch, he didn’t like getting a clatter,” McGregor’s boxing coach said, from his days at native Crumlin Boxing Club, where he went on to win a national junior title.
His 5ft 9 inch stature measures up well to many in his division, giving McGregor a size advantage to impose his accurate and fierce striking ability on his often smaller opponents.
McGregor may well have to deal with a clatter in this fight; whether he likes it or not.
His opponent tonight is American Chad Mendes, who measures up three inches shorter but has in his armoury a powerful right hand – that’s knocked out eight of his nineteen opponents – and he is also a master of the ground game from his wrestling days at college.
“I punch like Tyson with these little gloves.” Says a confident Mendes.
McGregor’s two recorded losses are both from being submitted on the ground.
“This is a guy I know I can beat,” Says Mendes. “Conor’s never faced anyone like me before. I have the athleticism, the strength, the power, the speed and I have wrestling to put him on his back and finish this fight.”
It is likely that we will indeed see McGregor on his back for the first time, and perhaps ‘clattered’ – though he does sport an impressive 100% takedown defence – but if anyone can alter this, it’s Mendes.
When fans pack themselves into the MGM Grand on Saturday night, it will be a record gate for UFC at the venue, generating at least £4.5 million.
Paddy Power are offering odds of 7/1 on Mendes winning, while McGregor is placed at 4/1.
This is a true competitive ‘pick-em’ fight that could go either way, but if McGregor is as good as he says he is, then we could see him hand Mendes a KO loss.
“A bit of Connor charisma is media gold,” says Telegraph’s Alan Davis.
It’s time for McGregor, however, to prove he’s much more than that; and it’s time for Mendes to prove he’s exactly that.