Conor’s date with destiny

by Gazette Reporter

 sport@dublingazette.com

CONOR McGregor is looking to make a further piece of history on Saturday evening in the O2 as he becomes the first Irishman to headline a UFC event when he takes on Brazil’s Diego Brandao.
It follows a lengthy 11-month spell away from the octagon having picked up an ACL knee injury in his unanimous victory over Max Holloway last August.
But McGregor says the time out has made him a stronger man and he is fully confident he will extend his winning streak to 11 fights.
“I feel like a better martial artist since the injury,” he said in the lead-up to the bout. “I have learned a lot about my body and I honestly have come back better as an athlete and a martial artist and better overall person because of it.”
It will be the Lucan man’s third fight under the UFC banner having previously won both the Cage Warriors featherweight and lightweight straps in 2012. He subsequently took just a minute to stop Marcus Brimage on his maiden UFC card in Stockholm before defeating Holloway.
Brandao, the Ultimate Fighter season 14 victor, could be a tricky opponent with excellent jiu jitsu skills but has been inconsistent since winning that crown.
While he will become the first headliner, McGregor says he is not overawed by the upcoming occasion.
“Every fight I have is a main event for me. I don’t feel pressure. I was the first Irish guy to win a world title; first European to win titles at two different weight divisions and first guy to sign for the UFC and register a win.
“Now, I’ll be the first Irish guy to headline a main event. I’m making history one fight at a time and I am not going to stop here.”
To prepare, he relocated to Reykjavik for final preparations – a regular training haunt as he worked with welterweight battler Gunnar Nelson – and he says it has him in perfect shape.
“When I come over here, I isolate myself and prepare myself to take out the whole division. We have a good thing going here along with a good team of people in Dublin.
“We all bounce off each other, learn from each other and have something to teach and are all willing to learn. I’ve definitely learned a lot here from Gunnar and the Icelandic way of living.
“He is one of the best welterweights out there; I’m a featherweight but I more than hold my own so I am supremely confident in my division, the lightweight division or whatever division I take on as I get older.”
And he hopes that the Brandao fight is a stepping stone to greater things.
“I’m obsessed; I’m addicted. I can’t shut it off. I’m definitely in the pursuit of perfection; no doubt I am still learning and always will be. Whether it’s attainable, I don’t know but I am definitely on the pursuit.”

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