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The Conor McGregor era is still green, and the pastures greener still

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Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON – At the end of the night, Conor McGregor’s head was spinning not from any Dennis Siver kick, but from the three fingers of rare Midleton Irish whiskey that he taunted the media with in the post-fight press conference. He rambled on past closing time until UFC president Dana White finally cut him off. It was a shame, really; McGregor was telling a story about the vertigo his feelings feel when feeling, which held the sober media rapt. Even ol’ Paddy Holohan, sitting right next to him, was getting a kick out of it.

We all were.

Now, at some point this all may get old. But that time is not yet. Not in Boston, where everything was green as Irish Spring on Sunday night. Not in the featherweight division, which is green with envy. Not in Las Vegas, which is green as the money, and exactly where McGregor is headed next for a title shot against Jose Aldo (who, McGregor informs us, looks like a skinny little Brazilian boy from the favelas).

After a massive PR push, McGregor showcased well against Siver in the main event of UFC Fight Night 59. He stalked the German down and let fly his full artistry. If you don’t know by now, the space in between is his medium. It was methodical. It was balletic. He’d misfire on a spinning high kick, only to snap off a jab like the manipulator of range that he is. Siver would push forward gamely using oblique kicks and utilitarian stuff up top, and McGregor would counter from some remote outpost just beyond his grasp. Siver’s face was getting marked up good as his spoiler’s role was slowly rendered delusional. He lasted into the second round, and at some point that might feel like a moral victory…but ultimately, if Siver was treated as an afterthought coming in, he was discarded just as cruelly going out.

Will the geometry and leaning angles work against Aldo? Hey, we will find out soon enough. Probably in May, according to White. The McGregor-Aldo fight will without question be the biggest thing the featherweight division has seen, even if it can’t happen in Croke Park. It might be the biggest fight of the year. Aldo, who is the only king the featherweight division has ever known, doesn’t have to do a thing other than show up, realistically. He’s already known as one of the game’s most sublime strikers; the only thing missing from his game is a rival. What happens when he faces somebody who is equally sublime?

That’s the fundamental intrigue that will play out.

But let’s be real. McGregor is a class-A talker who can’t help but do the heavy lifting in most tedious part of the whole arrangement -- in the selling of the fight. On Sunday night in Boston, just as last July in Dublin, McGregor came out to pandemonium. Somebody said that roughly 15 percent of the crowd came in from Ireland, and that felt conservative. In his fifth UFC fight, McGregor is already an icon in the game. And he made the most of his first big platform. When he was done, he leapt over the cage wall and confronted Aldo, who was sitting up front. It was the best thing that could have happened to the Brazilian champion, who isn’t the type to seek out a conflict. It was all very emblematic of the situation; Aldo doesn’t need to do much other than sit there. McGregor is his Sherpa to the uppercrest of pay-per-view.

Can’t beat this set-up.

Who knows how all this plays out. Aldo may kick McGregor's legs off. Or, if McGregor takes Aldo’s belt on Memorial Day weekend, we could be dealing in immediate sequels.  At some point McGregor will have to answer the burning question as to how he handles a wrestler...a dogged, determined wrestler who won’t be easily had by a mere dictator of space. All of that is for another day. In a year, it’s as possible we’ll be talking about Conor McGregor as one of the game's greats as it is that we'll be overdosing on the very word "Notorious."

But on Sunday night, as the coxcomb with the Irish whiskey told the media that Ricardo Lamas was a p*ssy, and that Siver was a juicehead, and that the Conor McGregor era was upon us, it was hard not to catch a vicarious buzz. It was hard not to see McGregor as the star he’s become.