One of Ireland’s biggest combat sports stars believes Conor McGregor doesn’t get the respect he deserves back home.
In a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Olympic gold medalist and undefeated boxing champion Katie Taylor elaborated on her friendship with McGregor and lamented the fact that the former UFC two-division champion isn’t viewed with the level of appreciation in Ireland that she believes is deserved for his accomplishments inside the octagon.
“I messaged him after the Dustin Poirier fight, just to offer some words of encouragement really,” Taylor said. “He’s always been a fantastic support to me, but I think he’s just someone who’s actually transcended the sport. He’s like, for me, the Muhammad Ali of the UFC. He’s just a fantastic athlete. A great businessman as well. But what he’s done in the sport and the UFC has been absolutely incredible, and I don’t think he’s celebrated as much as he should be here in Ireland. I think he is an absolute global superstar and just a phenomenal athlete, and he’s always been a complete gentleman towards me.
“I know that he’s trained at Crumlin Boxing Club an awful lot, a place where I actually trained on a regular occasion as an amateur boxer as well,” Taylor added. “I used to go there on a regular occasion for sparring sessions, so that’s obviously a connection that we have.”
McGregor’s reputation in Ireland is a complex one. The UFC superstar is both a popular figure and a controversial one in his native country following a series of outside-of-the-cage incidents, sexual assault allegations, and arrests in recent years. In one memorable altercation in 2019, McGregor punched an elderly man at a pub in Dublin for allegedly turning down a drink. Just two months ago, McGregor was again under fire for allegedly punching Italian DJ and musician Francesco Facchinetti at a luxury hotel in Rome.
Nonetheless, McGregor remains the biggest MMA star to ever lace up a pair of four-ounce gloves. He has headlined all six of the highest-selling pay-per-views in UFC history and he topped Forbes’ list of the highest-paid athletes of 2021, the first MMA fighter to ever do so.
“I just think he’s had a few controversial moments outside of the cage as well that people obviously didn’t appreciate,” Taylor said.
“But I’m looking at him as just a phenomenal athlete, and someone who I generally think has transcended the sport, someone who’s become bigger than the sport. Nearly every time he does fight, it’s an absolute huge event. He still gets the highest number of pay-per-view figures and he’s still the highest-paid athlete in the UFC. I just look at him as just an outstanding athlete, and I can’t wait to see him come back.”
McGregor is currently rehabilitating the gruesome leg injury he suffered in his loss to Poirier at UFC 264. He is expected to return to the cage sometime in 2022.