SPORTS

Irish fighter Conor McGregor celebrates life in the UFC, sees nothing but success

08/15/2013 10:22 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT
Just one fight into his UFC career, (The Notorious) Conor McGregor has swagger to spare.

The Irish featherweight is confident, cocky and colourful. Could he be a UFC champion?

UFC president Dana White is already a fan, taking the time to give McGregor a late-night tour of Las Vegas in his Ferrari convertible to help celebrate the fighter's 25th birthday. The ride was captured on video with a giggling McGregor quizzing the UFC boss as they negotiate the Strip.

"What speed can this go?" the fighter asked.

"It will go fast," said White. "We'll open it up on the freeway a little bit."

McGregor, who is on a nine-fight winning streak, plans on repaying the favour.

"I tell you what. He comes over to Ireland and I'll be give him a lift around in my Ferrari," he said in interview. "Give me six months and I'll have a nice Ferrari myself."

McGregor isn't exactly slumming in the interim. He currently drives a BMW 645 and just bought his girlfriend a Range Rover.

On Saturday, McGregor (13-2) can add to his growing reputation — and perhaps his garage — when he takes on 21-year-old American Max Holloway (7-2) on the undercard of a televised card in Boston that sees former light-heavyweight champion Mauricio (Shogun) Rua face Chael Sonnen in the main event.

Holloway, a rangy fighter who is 3-2 in the UFC, is an injury replacement for Andy Ogle.

Expect the TD Garden to be rocking when McGregor enters to an Irish fanfare and carrying the Irish colours.

"That is going to be crazy," he admitted.

He expects to sample some of Boston's nightlife after the fight, as well as some of its stores. McGregor likes his clothes and seems to have a soft spot for bow ties.

"Do they accept cheques, do they?" he asked. "I'm going to have a couple of fat cheques ready to be splashed on them."

"I visualize making the maximum amount of money and watch it happen," he added. "Because everything I see in my head seems to be happening before my eyes. Honestly I cannot stop it, there's nothing I can do to stop it, it just keeps on happening. So why not envision all these good things and let them happen?"

McGregor picked up a couple cheques from his UFC debut in Stockholm in April, a 67-second showcase of sharp striking.

American opponent Marcus (The Bama Beast) Brimage, who was 3-0 in the UFC, came at McGregor in the first minute, only to be punished by a series of counter-punches. The Irish fighter then tagged Brimage with a left to the head before putting him away on the ground for his 10th first-round finish.

"I didn't really have a game plan, it was wherever it went," he said afterwards. "You can't let emotions get in the way."

He wrapped up the post-fight interview by yelling "Dana, 60 Gs, baby," a reference to the knockout of the night bonus which he went on to win.

While each fight is getting bigger, McGregor says he doesn't feel it because in his head each one was always important.

"I just approach it the same way," he explained. "Once the door shuts, it makes no difference. It's me and the other guy and the referee. And there's only one guy walking out of there with his hand raised and that's me.

"I try not to focus on anything else."

McGregor won a pair of Cage Warriors FC titles in 2012 immediately before entering the UFC, choking out Dave Hill for the vacant featherweight championship in June for the vacant featherweight title before knocking out Ivan Buchinger for the vacant lightweight crown in December.

He fights out of SBG Ireland (which stands for Straight Blast Gym) under longtime coach John Kavanagh.

McGregor says he initially got into martial arts for self defence. "I was always the short guy, the little handsome guy, the little good-looking guy that everyone wanted to beat up for some reason," he explained.

He was 16 or 17 when he met Tom (The Tank) Egan, who was training in jiu-jitsu, and the two saw the UFC on TV.

"That was it. We used to talk about it all day."

The two started training together in a shed at Egan's home. Then they found out about SBG and started training there.

"I could hold my own on the feet and Tom could hold his own in jiu-jitsu," he recalled. "And that was it. I said 'Man, I'm taking this. This is mine now, I'm going to take this over.'"

Kavanagh helped fill in the holes and even pulled McGregor back to the straight and narrow — at the request of McGregor's mother — when he began to stray off the path. McGregor admits he was getting in trouble, owing money to "the wrong kind of people."

Kavanagh had a heart-to-heart with McGregor, convincing him to return to the gym and training.

"I don't know what I would be doing if I didn't find martial arts and martial arts didn't find me," McGregor said in all seriousness.

Today his SBG teammates include Iceland welterweight Gunnar Nelson, who is 2-0 in the UFC.

"We've got a team of hungry guys that are looking to break in behind myself and Gunnar. It's not just me and Gunnar. There's more guys to come," said McGregor.

"It's a great time for martial arts in my small nation of Ireland," he added.

McGregor was in the stands in January 2009 when the UFC made its first visit to Ireland and Egan lost to England's John Hathaway at UFC 93 before a loud, raucous crowd at Dublin's O2 Arena.

"That event in Dublin spurred me on and showed me that 'This is for me. I can do this. I can take over this,'" said McGregor.

Egan is now married and living in Boston, where he coaches boxing at Peter Welch's gym. He will be in McGregor's corner Saturday.

Despite all the hype — some self-generated via his over-the-top self-confidence — McGregor says it's business as usual as he prepares to step into the Octagon again.

"I'm the same as always," McGregor insists. "I don't get excited. I don't get anything. This is just another contest to me. It's another day. I do the same thing I do every day — trying to take over the world."

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Follow Neil Davidson on Twitter at @NeilMDavidson

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