The former two-division UFC champion was elated following Garry’s first-round knockout of Jordan Williams at UFC 268 and sent Garry several messages of support on Twitter. Included in those messages were a trio of voice recordings in which an increasingly animated McGregor waxed poetic about how Garry’s victory inspired him to stay the course for his own comeback from the devastating leg injury he suffered against Dustin Poirier.
And for a 23-year-old UFC rookie like Garry, who grew up idolizing McGregor during the superstar’s rags-to-riches rise, the entire experience capped off an already surreal night.
“We were listening and I’m laughing, there’s a big smile on my face,” Garry said Monday on The MMA Hour. “And it was just the fact that, even in that, I could feel that Conor felt motivated by what I had just said. He was saying, like, ‘I respect that so much,’ in a sense of like, ‘In my hardest time, I’m coming back from an injury, this has given me motivation.’ And he was like, ‘I’m part of that [Irish] takeover too.’ I’m like, ‘Hey, let’s get on it, Conor. Let’s get on it.’ Ireland will explode if you put me and him on a card together. So I’m in.
“At the end of the day, he’s the biggest star in the sport, and if he wants to join this takeover, we can do it again. We’ll do it together. But we were listening and it just was phenomenal, the fact that he’s going to take motivation [from me] in any single way. The fact that he inspired me and now I can give back any little bit to him is amazing for me. It’s like anything you’ve got, it’s just returned, because you’ve inspired me to be here, and if I can give you any motivation to help you come back, then off you go — just here you go, take it all.
“I really appreciate it from him,” Garry continued. “I think it’s special that the biggest star in the sport, my inspiration, someone who I looked up to as a child, is posting stuff like that. I think it’s phenomenal and it’s like a dream come true.”
Garry arrived to UFC 268 fight week in New York with plenty of hype after capturing the Cage Warriors welterweight title in June, and he certainly delivered after some early adversity, knocking out Williams with a brilliantly timed counter right hand that evoked memories of McGregor’s many knockouts. Garry then evoked McGregor once more in his post-fight interview, repeating McGregor’s iconic line from UFC Dublin — “We’re not here to take part, we’re here to take over!” — and declaring to the Madison Square Garden crowd that his UFC 268 debut over Williams signaled the beginning of “the takeover, part two.”
All things considered, it was close to a perfect night for Ireland’s latest blue-chip prospect, and Garry tried to appreciate it as much as he could before his UFC ride really gets going.
“I just soaked in the moment,” Garry said. “I didn’t want to leave that cage not having kind of walked around and looked out at the crowd and enjoyed every single second it, because it is going to be a special moment that we look back on in a couple years. It is something that I’m never going to forget. It’s the proudest moment of my fighting career in the sense of, ‘I’ve just won my UFC debut by knockout in the first round in the most iconic sports venue on the planet. I just want to enjoy this.’ And that adrenaline, it was phenomenal.
“It was just beautiful and the support has been amazing, the hype has been brilliant, and it’s all just falling into place. I’ve told you, this is a destiny. It’s written. I’ve just got to show up and do it. And it’s just, for me, it’s just enjoyable. I’ve just got to do it all over again now.”
Garry now enters a UFC welterweight division that is loaded with talent — the same division headlined by the two men who vied for gold in UFC 268’s main event, No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound fighter Kamaru Usman and top-ranked contender Colby Covington.
The UFC’s waters at 170 pounds are shark-infested, and Garry is still a newcomer to this game. His professional career only began in 2019, so Garry said Monday that he hopes to be patient and take the slow road in UFC, as it’ll give him the greatest chance of success.
“I want to learn more now,” Garry said. “So obviously I’m young and I’ve got loads of time in the sport — I don’t want to rush back into a second fight. So I want to fight probably like April or May, because if you think about it, I want to go home to Dublin and I want to see my friends and family, I want to enjoy the holidays. I’m going to come back to Florida, because I’m based in Florida, and I’m going to spend a lot of time with [coach] Henry [Hooft] and the guys at Sanford, and I want to get that wrestling nailed down with [coach] Greg Jones, because there’s so much potential for me and him to just change my wrestling because he’s an amazing coach. And there’s just so much I can learn in that gym.
“Twelve weeks was what I spent there for this fight and it wasn’t enough, because there’s so much I can learn. You give me three or four months there, I’m going to be a completely different fighter. I’m going to refine skills, and it’s the little things that matter ... little small things that will take me from being a great fighter to being amazing.”
Garry said his ideal plan would be to fight three times next year with at least four months between every bout. He targeted April or May for his UFC return, then any time from July to August for his next appearance, capped off by one final fight in the fourth quarter of 2022.
Much like U.K.-based heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall, Garry wants to do everything in his power to ensure that by the time he’s fighting the best in the world, he’ll be ready.
“It’s going to go fast,” Garry said, “but I’m going to do my best to slow it down so that I’m not rushing.”