A victory over Ogle should launch McGregormania among the Irish Diaspora

This week, Peter Carroll takes a look at the history of Irish fighters in the US, the UFC’s fascination with pitting Ireland against England and the potential superstardom that awaits Irish MMA’s favourite son if he banks another big win.

With the recent announcement of Andy Ogle to face off against Conor McGregor on August’s Boston card, the UFC have backed up the statement made by Dana White, who insisted McGregor wouldn’t be rushed into anything drastic within the featherweight roster.

It’s been awhile since Ireland has had a marketable sporting superstar hit the United States with the same promise, youth and enthusiasm as the featherweight and already his success is having an impact on how the sport is perceived on the island.

Steve Collins was one of the last sporting Irishman to command such respect with the Irish Diaspora, and to be fair, the Cabra native put in a lot of ground work in the States to gain himself a reputation before getting the nod for the now classic bouts with the likes of Benn and Eubank.

Although the well remembered battles with the Englishmen may not have taken place in the US, there is no doubt that White and other UFC brass have had a close look at the interest that the contests pitting Ireland against England have created.

Evidence of this can be noted from when Tom Egan, the first man from the Republic to compete in the octagon, made his debut for the promotion back in 2009 at UFC 93 in Dublin, he too stood toe to toe with an English prospect in the shape of Johnny Hathaway.

Of course, this could all be coincidental given the fact that the promotion was making inroads into Europe at the time and with Dublin being an easy trek for the other European athletes – it may have simply fallen into place.

Similarly, Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis, found his path paved with English opponents. Despite not being born in the country or having no training links with Ireland (not until much later in Waterford), he still was put forward as a representative for the Emerald Isle fighting five English based fighters including Dan Hardy, Paul Kelly and Paul Taylor.

Indeed, the East Coast of the US is well known as a stronghold for the Irish and it was there that Collins made his mark as a young middleweight, first capturing the USBA title in New Jersey in 1989 before competing for the WBA title the following year in 1990.

He cultivated a 15-0 record fighting exclusively on the East Coast, and it was down to his popularity which was built upon those early showings that put him in line for the title shots.

Speaking recently about his upcoming bout in Boston, McGregor was under no illusions as to how his nationality was the driving force behind his immediate selection for the card after his stunning debut.

“Boston is well known for its Irish roots and my nationality has never been something that I’ve needed to play up,” he said.

“I’m a proud Irishman. I’ve been carrying that flag for years – it’s not something I just threw on for my UFC debut.

“These people have a rich Irish heritage and I’m going to give them the show that they deserve.”

McGregor also spoke on how the location of the bout may have had an impact on the decision of Sean Shelby when picking the fight.

“To be honest, I think that’s why Andy got the fight. The Irish over there would love to see me against an Englishman.

“I feel like I’m gonna be treated like the hometown fighter over there but, either way it’s going to be a tough night for Andy.

“I admire his heart, I really do, but I don’t think we’re in the same league as far as technique is concerned.

“Again, and I’ve been saying this to you for years now, I have my shots picked. You wait and see. I already know what he’s going to do and I already have the answer for it.”

After the media frenzy that came with the win over Brimage, many felt that the Irishman would be looking at a big step up in competition. Further fuel was added to the fire after it emerged that McGregor had a few words with Cub Swanson about his aptitude to “stay ready”.

Dustin Poirier and Diego Brandao were other names from the division that were brought up and let’s not forget Akira Corassani’s gentlemanly proposal, but the UFC seemed to be in no rush with the 24 year old.

On paper, it would seem that Marcus Brimage has a better pedigree than Ogle, winning three bouts in the UFC before his meeting with McGregor, while Ogle has gone 1-1 in two bouts with the promotion.

Both Brimage and Ogle are not particularly noted for their finishing ability, polar opposites to McGregor, and although it may seem biased, it doesn’t seem to be a massive test for the former Cage Warriors double weight champion.

However, it can only mean good things for the nation’s most exciting export. If the UFC continue to slowly build the young man, it can only mean more money, exposure and notoriety for him.

It seems he is already on the verge of completing his own prophecy of dragging the UFC back to Dublin. There are already some dates doing the rounds on the rumour mill and he could be looking at a head line slot at the O2 in the capital if he bags another impressive win.

A victory could mean the crowning of Ireland’s new sporting king with the American/Irish audience in Boston as his royal subjects.

Recently when discussing a possible matchup with Roy Jones Jnr, Steve Collins explained why if anywhere, he would want the bout to take place in America, despite a lot of people believing that he could put Irish boxing back on the map by bringing that main event to the country.

“That’s where the crowd is,” said Collins. “Vegas or maybe New Jersey, that’s where everyone wants to be fighting and you’ll have all of the Irish willing you on from bell to bell.

“The people with Irish roots over there really feel that the Irish fighters are representing them. You could bring young Irish fighters over there for the undercard and they’d get the same reception.”

Although the Dubliner’s star has been catapulted into the Irish mainstream since his stunning debut, McGregormania, on an international scale, could be at the end of that left hand come August 17th.

Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.

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