The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was recently sold for just over £3 billion, signifying the sport’s popularity in the modern, social media driven age in which it has thrived. A good indication of the UFC’s global fan base is the enthusiasm with which British and Irish fans have supported the American organisation, travelling thousands of miles in order to support their heroes.
So this month, in the week leading up to Saturday 20th August, what is long becoming a ritual for many fight fans from the Emerald Isle will commence. Fans will grab their ESTA visa and passport, and will pack their bags for a pilgrimage of sorts across the Atlantic to see the Irish UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor in action. Las Vegas will be painted green by the loud and boisterous supporters as they cheer on their man, and then proceed to party all night until the break of dawn.
This fight includes a different sub plot to many of McGregor’s previous tussles. After an amazing run of victories since his debut in the UFC, the winning sequence was brought to an abrupt halt as McGregor went down to Nate Diaz in a shock submission loss last time out in Vegas.
Rather than go back down to the featherweight division where he is still the legitimate king, McGregor has chosen to stay up at an unfamiliar weight of 170 pounds – a lot higher than the division he usually fights in (145), and the reason most commentators are saying he lost the first fight with Diaz.
That says a lot about McGregor’s will to win, and the indomitable attitude that has won him millions of supporters over the previous years. But whether it is a wise decision remains to be seen. Diaz is a much bigger fighter than McGregor in terms of his body frame, and even though the Irishman has been sparring taller men in preparation, whether he can translate that form into the octagon remains to be seen.
What is certain, is that another unforgettable evening awaits the Irish fans that make the trip to the US to see the fight, in the what is sometimes dubbed ‘Sin City’.