“The Notorious” Conor McGregor managed to claim a decision win over Max Holloway in his North American debut last Saturday at UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston’s TD Garden, despite injuring his knee in the early exchanges of the second round.
It seemed the night had been tailor-made for McGregor, with the whole Boston crowd screaming him on in the legendary stadium.
“The support out there was unbelievable,” McGregor said of his entrance. “It was all green walking out there. The place was green. Green flags, leprechauns jumping around. It was unbelievable.”
Although many tuned in to see McGregor, who had never fought to a decision in his life, finish the contest in as impressive a manner as he dealt with Marcus Brimage in April, what they got instead was a vision of a true martial artist.
Even though the former Scoil Cois Life student was injured for a significant portion in the fight, at no time did he seem in trouble as he powered his dangerous counterpart down for 15 minutes.
Every movement he made was concentrated and specific as he attacked Holloway from angles he had never seen before, with barrages of punches and flamboyant hook kicks among the many weapons in McGregor’s arsenal.
He even managed to showcase his grappling ability in the third round when he effortlessly controlled and transitioned on the ground, proving that he has the full spectrum of tools needed for success in the sport.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind who won the fight, and the judges were unanimous in there decision that the Dubliner had won all three rounds.
Regardless of what anyone thought, McGregor has always been his own biggest critic and he had no hesitation in telling the gathered media after the event that he had expected more.
“I really wanted the [big] finish, I can’t stress that enough,” he said. “It feels like a loss to me, to be honest.”
“I injured my knee midway through the second when I was moving into side control. He bridged and rolled, but my foot was caught and I heard it pop.
“I tried to throw some shots and play around with it, but it was wobbly. What can you do? I’ll get it right next time.”
Although McGregor may have found the decision hard to take, his reaction impressed UFC president Dana White, who has made no bones about his admiration of the Irishman since his 67-second knockout of Brimage.
“I love that attitude,” White said. “Some guys would sit up here and go, ‘Eh, well, I won.’ No. He’s annoyed at himself that he didn’t finish.
“Why am I promoting this kid? Why am I getting behind him? Because I love what he’s about.”
The rise of the sport has been meteoric in Ireland since McGregor’s heroics in Sweden, and he fulfilled a prophecy of his own when in February he claimed he would “drag the UFC back to Dublin” after “stealing the show” in Boston.
White announced after Saturday’s event that the UFC would be back in capital in the third quarter of 2014, but, as for the fighting pride of Dublin, McGregor can’t wait to get back into the octagon to prove his worth again.
“What these guys have done for me, Dana giving me all this attention, these guys are making my dreams come true,” said McGregor. “I’m forever grateful to these guys.
“That’s why this is a loss to me. I come out to finish every time. Max is tough. I wanted to exchange with Max.
“I don’t know. I’m blown away [with the result], but realistically let’s get the next one in, because I’m ready to whoop somebody real quick, yeah?”