For years, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has tried to penetrate international mixed martial arts (MMA) markets, pushing tirelessly into Britain, Brazil, Canada and Asia in search of new talent and fan bases.
There is one spirited area, however, that has gone virtually untapped, with few skilled fighters deserving a shot in the world's leading promotion: Ireland. However, UFC President Dana White has found just the man who can reel in promotional support, Conor McGregor, who has already made a name for himself.
Compiling a 12-2 record on the international circuit, McGregor wasn't really well known for some time. Of course, this all changed when he signed with UFC shortly after his one round drubbing of Ivan Buchinger at a Cage Warriors event in 2012. That fight, along with a short documentary -- and quite a bit of hype on Internet forums -- created a perfect storm for the arrival of this outspoken Irishman.
And he could not have responded better.
His first fight in the UFC was against Marcus Brimage, a tough fighter known for his tenacity and constant movement. McGregor systematically destroyed him in the first round, dropping him multiple times before putting him away with an uppercut after just a minute of action.
McGregor carried his Irish flag around, spoke innocently enough with Joe Rogan, and that was all it took to springboard him to having a devoted fanbase. His following interviews showed more of his personality, and he is certainly someone who likes to be heard.
And it seems the masses generally like to hear him.
McGregor is a perplexing character, one who perfectly fits the "live in the moment" type of attitude. He has acknowledged that he is broke, but doesn't seem to really care. His financial plans are to blow all his future earnings for no particular reason.
He is generally just a crazy, entertaining man, inside and outside of the cage.
"Notorious" carries himself with a type of swagger, always looking and acting cool, but still saying things that makes us all turn our heads and listen. This same swagger is evident in his brutal striking game, the one that makes us turn our heads to watch.
Simply put, McGregor is fun to watch, no matter where he is. And with the talent he has shown, it may very well be something that will make him quite popular in the not so distant future. He is bold, brash and tough, qualities that fight fans devour. He's the kind of fighter who will talk a lot about anyone out there, and right now, it looks like he can back it up.
His fight on Saturday night (Aug. 17, 2013) at UFC Fight Night 26, which takes place at TD Garden Bank in Boston, Mass., will test him like none before. First, he will face an opponent, Max Holloway, who is comparable in skill, but taller and longer, making an interesting physical match up with which he will have to adjust. Holloway is the type of fighter who doesn't care if an opponent slings heavy leather at him because he's looking to do the same.
What we see in "Beantwon" from McGregor may be very telling of the success he may or may not have in the Octagon. There will be more pressure than ever for him to perform, with the MMA world seemingly at his fingertips, and it will be up to him to find a way through it. He's a refreshing addition to the Featherweight division, and with another impressive performance on fight night, he might just find himself deep into the Top 10 rankings.
In the toughest test of his career, can McGregor live up to his hype?
He's come a long way from poverty in Ireland, and a win here would be a step in the right direction, but nobody can be sure yet if he is for real. He talks as if he's made it, even though he's not quite there yet, so he better back up his talk with a big performance against Holloway, or he'll become yet another crash-and-burn UFC story vis-a-vis Brandon Vera.
There's a lot riding on this fight for McGregor -- an entire Irish MMA nation might be able to get behind him, not to mention the thousands of fans in the United States. If he can pull off yet another big win, he could be looking at a very bright future, but nobody can be sure that he can do it.
McGregor is an entertaining personality and an entertaining fighter. But, entertainment only gets you so far in a sport as brutal as MMA. McGregor stands at a point in his career where he can be one of the biggest names in the sport in a very short time, which is something worth talking about.
And he is definitely worth watching later tonight in Boston on the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" broadcast.