“The Notorious” Conor McGregor returned to Ireland last weekend and was instrumental in helping to launch celebrated Dublin MMA coach John Kavanagh’s new facility for the internationally acclaimed Straight Blast Gym at the Naas Road.
Conor appeared on Ireland AM last week with Kavanagh and explained his connection with the acclaimed martial arts coach, and the reason for his appearance at the new gym over the weekend, where droves of fans queued up to meet McGregor, who had no problem meeting his adoring public, staying in the gym’s Octagon for several hours, shaking hands and taking pictures.
“There are so many amateur, local shows around Ireland. John used to promote local shows, and there were 50 people coming along to GAA halls to see us fight. I will forever be repaying John. He put his faith in me when no-one else would. He helped guide me.”
Beginners in the sport will get the opportunity to train alongside champions McGregor and Cathal Pendred in what is Europe’s largest MMA facility.
Speaking to Gazette Sport last weekend at the official opening of the new facility, Kavanagh explained how he had been thinking about the move for a long time and why he felt the time was right for the change.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” said Kavanagh. “Where I live, if I walk out the front entrance it leaves me on the Long Mile Road and if I walk out the back way it leaves me at the Naas Road.
“For a long time, I was walking around day dreaming about getting one of them, and we’re now the third occupant in that row.”
With the UFC announcing that they are coming back to the O2 in September, the growth of the sport is tangible, and Kavanagh puts that down to McGregor’s progress.
“It’s crazy to see but I read a lot of books and these types of things aren’t uncommon,” said Kavanagh on McGregor’s stardom.
“When Brian O’Driscoll first emerged he proved that guys didn’t have to go to the southern hemisphere to make it and it inspired a group of guys to get into the game. If you didn’t have O’Driscoll, you wouldn’t have guys like Cian Healy.
“Ireland was never a country known for producing world class players, and it took one person to change that. That’s what Conor is doing for mixed martial arts in Ireland now.”
“Conor is the spark that lit the fuse, and I think we can produce more world champions with this facility in place.”