Irish Fans in NY Give McGregor An Edge
Mixed martial arts happening in NYC is a big deal, the evidence of this is in the lead up to the main event. I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the final pre-fight press conference on Thursday afternoon and again receive tickets to the much anticipated weigh-in Friday evening. The most impressive thing I witnessed over the two day period was not the fighters or even the grand scale of Madison Square Garden. The Irish fan contingency was by far the most polarizing factor among all that UFC 205 has to offer New York. I am a New Yorker born and raised, there is not much that impresses me, growing up in the City that never sleeps I have been exposed to more than most people. I was completely engulfed by the energy that Irish fans brought day after day to the press conference and the weigh-in.
Loud, passionate and unpredictable are only a few things that come to mind when I see a small gang of Irish flags draped across the shoulders of fans congregating anywhere near midtown Manhattan this week. At a moments notice they can break into song singing or chanting, they travel in troupes no less than ten and McGregor apparel or Irish flags are their uniform of choice.
Thursday afternoon when I walked into the Madison Square Theater to attend the final pre-fight press conference, from the moment I walked through the metal detectors all I could hear were Conor McGregor chants. The chanting did not fade until I left the garden and began to walk down 34th st. Eddie Alvarez could not get a word in during this press conference. A litany of boos and middle fingers would emerge as soon as a journalists would state their next question was for Eddie Alvarez. Eddie did his best to put on a brave face and proclaim the Conor fans were not bothering him. Clearly bothered, Alvarez became so uncomfortable at one point that he left the conference because Conor had not shown up yet and he was finished trying to talk over the McGregor fans. It felt like McGregor had an arrangement with his fans prior to the presser, "Don’t let Eddie get a word in until I arrive". Irish Fans were happy to oblige their champion. Then there was a flash of red and white streak across the stage, the king had arrived and the fun had just begun. The next 15 minutes was a whirlwind of deafening cheers and chants, McGregor clearly energized to point of almost throwing a chair at his opponent.
I found myself fixated on the Irish fans throughout both days of events. They are mesmerizing, and if at some point there is a lull in their enthusiasm and energy, McGregor without missing a beat gives them a jolt by saying a doing something outlandish that they can respond too. There is a somewhat symbiotic relationship they share, champion and his fans that is indescribable. They feed off each other’s energy better than I have seen in my 20 plus years of watching and competing in sports.
The weigh-ins were no different, there were just more Irish fans in attendance. I wouldn’t be going out on a limb when I say the Garden was 70% Irish flag toting Conor McGregor faithfuls. When their champion walked onto the scales the place erupted and shook like Conor had just knocked out Alvarez. It dawned on me at that moment why Conor says such outlandish things and makes such brazen predictions, the Irish fans that follow him all over the world give him that confidence and self-belief that he can do anything. Conor has mentioned in the past that when he wins they will need an army to come take those two belts away from him. The UFC is going to need just that if he does win, because Conor has the Irish fans behind him. After seeing the spectacle that is Conor McGregor and his fan base live these past two days I have no doubts that the UFC will need just that, a large army. Ireland is in New York City and they are not only taking part, they are taking over and they have the most polarizing figure in sports today "The Notorious One" leading the charge.
By: Chris Grabowski, Contributor to FightSports.tv