If the idea of a Conor McGregor one day fighting in Ireland’s Croke Park doesn’t evoke an image of sheer pandemonium, you didn’t see Tuesday’s press conference. The last stop of the UFC 189 World Tour happened to be Dublin, Ireland, where the star challenger for the featherweight crown -- Conor McGregor -- was able to (finally) promote the fight in front of his countrymen.
And it was a raucous setting.
Through chants and jeers and many fits and starts, the first question was directed at the champion Jose Aldo, and it was this: Having witnessed the passion of the Irish fans, in Boston and now in Ireland, does he have to factor that [passion] into his preparation.
"I came here, I’m the king of Dublin," Aldo said, as the crowd erupted in outrage and McGregor began to laugh. "When I got here it was rainy, but I brought the sun with me."
That prompted McGregor to kick his feet up on the dais, as he’d done in Rio de Janeiro last week to kick off the tour, and fire back. And after a quick exchange with UFC president Dana White standing idle at the podium between them, the challenger McGregor leapt up and snatched the belt from in front of Aldo. He waved it around for the Dublin crowd, which loved every minute of it. Aldo then stood up and came at McGregor, and stagehands -- along with White -- swooped in to stand between them. McGregor threw his arms up in victory afterwards, and yelled into the mic, "you’re looking at the king! You’re looking at the king!"
Talk about heat.
It was a hell of a way for the tour to end. It set the table for UFC 189 which takes place on July 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, in what could be the biggest fight of the year.
"This fight here is the fight I said would be the biggest fight of the year," White said. "This fight here is a global event. This fight here is Ireland versus Brazil. It’s for the world title and it’s on the global stage and it’s going to be insane."
From there the media questions blurred into increasingly bombastic statements from fans, and it became a free-for-all, as it has through much of the tour. When one fan told McGregor that he should have respect for the champion, a chorus of boos went up at the very audacity of the statement.
At one point, when a little boy asked McGregor how long it was going to take before he "ripped [Aldo's] head off" -- a question that whipped the crowd into a lather -- McGregor laid down the goods.
"It will be done in one," he said, holding up his index finger. The cheers fed into the prideful look on his face.