The presidential election may be over, but featherweight champion Conor McGregor wasn’t done campaigning, even greeting a baby in the crowd at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday before getting down to the open workout that precedes his UFC 205 main event against lightweight king Eddie Alvarez this weekend.
But if it comes down to popularity, “The Notorious” may have already taken this one in a landslide, based on the greeting he got from his fans as he worked with striking coach Owen Roddy. And McGregor was appreciative of the support, smiling from ear to ear as he celebrated being one half of the first UFC main event to be held in New York City
“It (fighting in the Garden) means the world to me,” McGregor said. “I’ve had a crazy, busy year, I’ve been working very hard for the fans and I couldn’t miss this event, no way. I built this event.”
That comment drew a sizable roar, and a smile from a gentleman who wondered if the UFC taking place in Madison Square Garden would ever be a reality.
“This is more than history; this is the fulfillment of a dream,” said Bruce Beck, the award-winning sportscaster who was the UFC’s play-by-play man from 1994 to 1997. “It was a pipe dream. I don't know if we ever thought that this was possible.”
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“They (the UFC) were just trying to get sanctioned in New York for so long, but early on, there were so many other things to worry about,” Beck said. “There were no weight classes, there were no time limits, no judges. There were only three rules: no biting, no eye gouging, no fish hooking. So we were in the early stages of a sport that was a renegade sport, and (Senator John) McCain was calling us 'human cockfighting.'
“We did not know it would evolve into this billion dollar empire, which is handled brilliantly and that (UFC President) Dana (White) has taken to a level that I never expected.”
McGregor, 28, has played a big role in the UFC’s growing popularity, and his spot atop the bill at MSG is a testament to that. Beck, who called the fights of UFC legends like Royce Gracie, Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock, as well as the promotion’s only previous event in New York (UFC 7 in Buffalo), has watched the development of the Dubliner with great interest.
“He transcends the MMA world,” Beck said of McGregor. “He's a little bit of an eclectic, eccentric, out there guy. He's got the talent, he's got the braggadocio, and you look back at all the great boxers in history that we talk about like Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather -- these guys all talk and a lot of the things they do outside the ring or the Octagon are taken upon as gospel too. So he's a guy that's not only looked upon as this great fighter, but as a guy who is an absolute character that represents the sport, and his following is amazing.”
McGregor, who topped off his Wednesday performance in typical mic-dropping style by picking up a basketball and hitting his one and only shot from the top of the key at MSG, would probably agree with statement. And if he had any doubts (not likely), making history by beating Alvarez and becoming the first fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously would probably do the trick.
And he agrees, saying that if he wins on Saturday, “I become immortal.”
More on UFC 205: Fight card for Nov. 12 | Reasons to watch | Champions Alvarez, McGregor to headline historic card | Woodley-Wonderboy welterweight title clash set | Polish stars Jedrzejczyk, Kowalkiewicz perfect for NYC | Preview the main card, and the prelims | By the Numbers: UFC 205 has big non-title fights too | Limited seats available | Pre-order the digital PPV