McGregor on Holloway – “The crowd are going to hit the roof when I put this guy away”

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It was just after the heroics of Stockholm since my last meeting with Conor McGregor, just as Ireland, and the world, were beginning to recognise the superstar they had on their hands.

Indeed, it seems it would be easier to isolate the publications, television and radio shows that the Dubliner wasn’t featured in after his stunning knockout of Marcus Brimage in the Ericsson Globe on April 6. He was, and still is, in very high demand.

To add to that, every nightclub wanted him pictured on their premises, and in the case of one club that couldn’t get him, they just mysteriously had a bearded fair haired man with a Mohawk show up and introduce himself to punters as Conor McGregor, who duly took pictures and posted them online. Oh the #instashame.

Just before I made the call, perhaps over dramatically, I found myself very aware that I wasn’t just interviewing Conor anymore, but rather one of the country’s biggest celebrities and for a moment I thought that everything might be different from now on.

“Call me back in five minutes, I’m on the phone to my agent,” said the former Cage Warriors double weight world champion.

My panic quickly subsided once we got going again and he was still the same as he ever was – spontaneous, honest and extremely entertaining.

“It was hard to get back into the swing of things in the gym after Sweden,” he admitted. “I had a lot of stuff to sort out and my training was a bit iffy. I had so many things to do and there were things that I had to deal with that I’d never come across before.

“I was going to the gym, but my focus just wasn’t 100% for the first two or three weeks when I got back. Eventually I found my rhythm again and now I feel better than ever.”

The idea that “The Notorious” could reach new heights after his spectacular wins over Hill, Buchinger and Brimage – performances that made the world take note of the Straight Blast Gym man – may seem hard to believe, but in a recent interview with Talking Brawls MMA Podcast, SBG head coach John Kavanagh was adamant his man had taken a further leap with his skill set.

“We always say – ‘You’re not fighting any particular person in your next fight, you’re fighting your current self. So if in a month you can’t beat your current self, we’ve done something wrong’.

“He’s taken a massive jump, as terrifying as that seems,” said Kavanagh. “For sure, Conor would lay a whooping on his old self from a couple of months ago.”

McGregor agreed that he too could see the evolution in his game.

“I was spontaneous in my approach to this fight. At this point I know I’m too much for anyone. I’m just too dynamic to lose.

“I’m better everywhere. I just get to the gym and flow. I’m pushing myself and pushing my team mates every day. They see the dream now and it’s making them work harder, and that brings the best out of me – I won’t allow myself to be out worked.

“This time I really feel like I’m representing my country, I can’t wait to do that and I’ve upped my game because of it,” said McGregor.

There is no way to win over an Irish crowd quite like a victory over their neighbours, England, and with the announcement of Geordie, Andy Ogle, as his original opponent, the August 17 card promised to be another massive launch pad for McGregor into the international mainstream.

However, with Ogle sidelined with a staph infection, Hawaiian prospect Max Holloway stepped in to make what many believed to be a better matchup for the Irishman.

On paper, people have cited Holloway’s reach as a possible obstacle for McGregor, and compared to Ogle, with his short and stocky gate, the two fighters appear as polar opposites to prepare for.

“I know I repeat myself a lot and I truly believe that I am fighting myself for the most part, but yeah, there have been slight tweaks in my training. As far as the height difference between the two fighters, that means nothing to me.

“Every day in SBG I train with different bodies, I love training with different bodies and seeing the unique movement of different people. That’s how I improve.

“As for the reach advantage? This guy has no advantages over me. You, of all people, should know that! I’m too smooth, I’m too slick and I’m too dynamic for all of these guys.

“To be honest, I think Ogle would’ve been a tougher fight, at least he’d stay in there and graft. I’m gonna hit this guy with so many shots. This is going to be a showcase, you mark my words.”

Before his last two fights, the Crumlin man had no problem telling local newspapers what shots he had planned specifically to use against his opponents, the Capoeira kicks for Buchinger and the uppercuts for Brimage, and despite the new mass media attention, McGregor had little hesitation in revealing some of the things he had been working on.

“This time I’ve been working a lot on side kicks and hook kicks. I’m not saying I’m going to knock him out with them shots, but I’ve definitely been mixing them into my arsenal.

“I’ve already told you, it’s not going to be about one shot, I want to hit this guy with a lot of shots, many times,” he said.

There is certainly a calmness over the 25 year old ahead of his sophomore outing for the UFC and it is obvious from the swagger of the featherweight star that he cannot wait to perform in front of the Irish Diaspora in the TD Garden.

“It’s crazy over there. Boston is Ireland. It’s going to be like fighting in Dublin, I can’t wait to walk out there and steal the show. The whole crowd are going to be shouting for me.

“I like to rise to the occasion and they are going to see something special, he doesn’t know what he’s in for.

“The crowd are going to hit the roof when I put this guy away,” he said, brimming with confidence.

There is never a dull moment in a conversation with McGregor and in closing I thought it only proper to ask about Jose Aldo and the possibility of the two facing off in the future.

“Turn on channel 4 there,” he said in a fit of laughter. “There’s a woman on taking some mad drug and they have cameras on her. I thought she was acting, this is fuckin’ gas.

“Hang on there a second, my phone is hoppin’ tonight,” a request I obliged him.

“What were we talking about again?” he asked on his return.

“Aldo”, I replied.

“Jesus, no wonder I forgot,” before he broke into the high pitched mischievous giggle again.

“I don’t know when they’re going to give me my belt back, to be honest, but I’m not worried.

“I’m going to do things in the UFC that people have never seen before. I’m built to perform,” he finished.

By 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.