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Aisling Daly on UFC Dublin: 'I don't think I'll ever get that experience again'

Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

The video alone is good enough.

Literally thousands of fervent Irish fans stood, singing along to the Cranberries' "Zombie" as Aisling Daly made her walk to the cage to face Ericka Almeida at UFC Fight Night 76.

It induces chills. Even as an outsider, watching on a 14-inch laptop screen through shoddy integrated speakers, the moment is massive.

Now, imagine being there. Imagine being the Irish fighter floating down the cleared path to the cage, carried by the passionate voices of your supporters.

"It was just crazy," Daly told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "To be singing along to your own entrance music and to have 10,000 people singing the words back at you, to feel every single person in the room willing you on to win, I can’t even describe it.

"Unless there’s a title fight happening in Dublin again, I don’t think I’ll ever get that experience again. I think it’s going to be one of those things where I’m going to be sitting with my grandchildren, gathering them all around and telling them about the time I fought in Dublin."

Despite training with Ireland's finest mixed martial artists - Conor McGregor, Cathal Pendred and Paddy Holohan among them - on a regular basis, Daly wasn't quite prepared for the enormity of this event. The UFC had been to Dublin twice before, and Daly had heard stories about the electricity in the arena on those occasions, but no words could prepare her for the rush of support she felt Saturday evening at UFC Fight Night 76.

"I still can’t get my head around it now," Daly said. "It almost feels like somebody else that made that walk on Saturday night rather than me. I feel a little bit like it was an out-of-body experience. It was absolutely amazing."

Throughout the fight - a dominant unanimous-decision victory - Daly showcased noticeably improved skills in all facets of the MMA game. She won the battle on the ground and on the feet, and her conditioning was better than ever. This last point, Daly said, is thanks to a secret weapon she utilized during her camp.

"Definitely the difference this time, I have a new nutritionist to help me out, Lindsey Doyle," Daly said. "Anybody who knows me knows that I’m a phenomenally hard worker. It’s not a case of me not working hard. It’s just a case of me not having the formula right, and pretty much, she is the formula.

"I put the work in training, but she gave me the plan to follow. It was one of the best performances of my career. When it came to the bell ringing at the end of Round 3, I honestly was disappointed that there wasn’t more rounds left."

Looking forward, Daly expects Doyle's methods to propel her toward new heights. Once worn down by the grind of the fight game, Daly feels reborn inside the Octagon.

"I feel like I’m driving a Ferrari now, where before that I was probably driving an old, dented, beat-up car," Daly said. "It was getting to the point where I was wondering ‘(Are) there too many miles on the clock? Have I been around the game a little too long?’ Honestly, now I’m just rejuvenated."

Despite her dominant and emotional victory against Almeida, Daly didn't escape the evening without some outside interference. Fellow UFC strawweight contender Claudia Gadhela was none too impressed with Daly's performance, and she took to Twitter to make her feelings known.

Daly, however, remains level-headed in the face of the call-out. Gadelha's negativity can't bring her down, and she's remaining focused on her career and on her improvements as a fighter and as a person.

"To be honest, I think it (Gadelha's tweet) was just jealousy," Daly said. "I’m having this phenomenal moment with my whole country standing beside me, supporting me, and she’s not having that. Nobody’s paying attention to her. She fought in Brazil, at home a couple times and nobody in her whole country really cares about her, so for me, it was just (her) trying to steal a bit of my limelight, I guess.

"I’ll happily compete against others as a way of measuring myself. That’s the way I’ve always looked at this sport, so I actually have no personal feelings toward Claudia. I have no anger toward her. I genuinely don’t feel anything toward her, so if the fight wants to be booked, if the matchmakers see fit, then let’s do it. If not, bring me on whoever else. I don’t have time or energy to get into Twitter battles like that."

What Daly does have energy for, however, is becoming the best strawweight in the world. In the wake of her victory over Almeida, Daly put her head down and immediately got back to work. Gold won't present itself any other way, and she's looking to keep the momentum rolling toward the 115-pound championship.

"I had such a great win on Saturday night, and I’m back to the gym Monday, trying to learn, trying to improve," Daly said. "I want to be the best strawweight on the planet. I want to be the most well-rounded on the planet."

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