The view from the ground – Petesy Carroll at UFC Boston

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The TD Garden was packed out on Friday night as the Boston Celtics hosted the Chicago Bulls. One of the greatest sporting institutions the city boasts, playing another franchise rich with a history of success, for some of the spectators the game simply wasn’t enough to keep their attention.

“There’s only one Conor McGregor,” sang a group of about twenty decked out in their Celtics gear as others looked on in amusement. To see the “Irish Invasion” in full affect at a basketball game was quite a sight, especially considering the torment the travelling support of the Fighting Irish put their vocal cords through at the Ultimate Media Day earlier on.

As each Irish fighter entered Ned Devine’s function room on Friday, the crowd bellowed in appreciation. First Pendred, then Parke, then Holohan – the self proclaimed ‘Irish King’ left his subjects simmering before making his big entrance.

His German opponent was halfway through his third interview of the day when the clamouring began. As McGregor became visible each mouth erupted in song until ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’ filled the room. Midway through answering a question, Siver stopped and took a look over the shoulder of his interviewer, shaking his head as ‘The Notorious’ waved to his fans.

Later, when McGregor was brought face to face with Siver, he was given a chance to get the crowd going.

“Rip his head off,” a voice shouted at him, an Irish accent.

“CLEAN OFF,” another implored him, as some awkward looks were exchanged between the non-Irish contingents in the facility.

The Dubliner met with his fans afterwards with Tom Egan happily taking pictures as they posed with his former Lucan school pal. McGregor might have signed everything they had only for UFC handlers whisking him off after a score of signatures. An hour after the weigh in, fans were still in Ned Devine’s singing rebel songs.

The anticipation for yesterday’s weigh in was nearly as large as the queue for the toilet in the building that hosted the event, the Orpheum Theatre. And the Irish weren’t just drinking, they were guzzling.

Such is their fascination with McGregor that the featherweights’ family were cited throughout Jose Aldo’s Q & A session, which was held before the weigh in.

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“There’s only one Tony McGregor”, “Tony, Tony – give us a wave”, “There’s only one Conor’s sister” (well, there’s two actually, but that’s not important), were sang as the Brazilian fielded ludicrous question – What are you going to do after you get knocked out? What technique will you use to clean the belt? Is your gold chain fake? – it was all done in good spirits, to be fair, no one seemed to get aggressive at any point.

Burt Watson came out to get the crowd ready about twenty minutes before the weigh in started. There was no need really, but the gathering did find a new gear after his appearance and launched into a rendition of the Fields of Athenry.

The Pendred family and Cathal’s girlfriend were sat directly in front me, while the McGregor clan were just a few rows behind. It must have been quite an emotional moment to see the impact their men have had on their following. The family members were all up enjoying themselves, singing along and dancing in what will be remembered as one of the best moments away from the cage from this event.

Pendred, born in Boston, has been seen around his old city quite a bit. The first face that welcomed most fans into the Boston Park Plaza on Thursday night, Cathal and his brother Padraig were in good spirits as they were seen leaving a convenience store near the W Hotel on the morning of the weigh in – as casual as you like.

As the crowd sang the Pete St John classic, people sitting beside Padraig at the very front of the hall produced a banner that read ‘ARE YOU WATCHING CATHERINE NOONE – DON’T BE IGNORANT.” As the crowd sang, it was almost like their energy was being directed at the message supporting the words damning the senator who was quick to ridicule a sport she hadn’t the foggiest clue about.

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Don’t get it twisted – the people who travelled to this event, at least the majority of them, are huge MMA fans. The first big interaction with the fighters came when Matt Van Buren came to the scales to register his weight. The man who knocked Chris Fields (Is he actually here???) out of the TUF 19 series, in what was a boring display of top control against the Irishman, was met by a deep, bassy ‘BOOOOOOOOO’ from the Irish.

Paddy Holohan’s weigh in could’ve brought tears to a glass eye. Having surprised his young son Tiernan with a trip to see him fight for the first time, the younger Holohan made it to his seat just in time for the event, wrapped in a tricolour and wearing one of his Dad’s signature hats.

Holohan made the weight and pointed directly at Tiernan and the child’s face lit up in delight and pride as he watched a whole theatre react so positively to his father. It’s hard to argue against the Tallaght man being the coolest Dad after that moment.

It was like the fights in between the Irish matchups allowed the audience to take a break from singing, shouting and screaming as their men took to the scales. The venue exploded two more times as Cathal Pendred made his way out in a Larry Bird jersey and then Norman Parke made weight to the same noise levels as his counterparts from the Republic.

The number of ‘Storm Damage’ t-shirts has been doubling by the day around Beantown. Parke himself seems as calm as ever, jovial almost, ahead of the most important test of his career on Sunday night.

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McGregor made weight and brought the crowd to fever pitch as he shifted stances in front of Siver as they faced off for the final time before they fight. He looked fairly depleted after the cut, but it didn’t stop him from putting on a show.

“That’s 145, that’s championship weight. Tell Jose I’m coming,” boomed McGregor to the crowd, sending them into a whirlwind once again.

It seemed a bit much to have him come back out on stage afterward for a quick Q & A. Not that the people didn’t want it, damn right they did, it just seemed too much having forced his body through the weight cut that day. I don’t know if that has ever been done before by the promotion.

It’s all set up things for an Irish show perfectly, that’s why Dana White’s appearance at the TD Garden on Friday has left a bitter taste in some peoples’ mouths. Aldo was also at the game and word has it that the Brazilian wants the stadium show to take place in his country rather than the Emerald Isle. Saturday’s Q and A will only have strengthened his resolve to not compete in Ireland.

“If Conor McGregor win on Sunday, he fights Jose Aldo, who hasn’t lost in nine years – the Brazilian champion,” said White from courtside. “They’ll fight for the title. That one is gonna be in Vegas.”

It seems a little much for the Irish contingent having to fork out three times in a row to see their hero compete. The trips to UFC 178 and now UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs Siver will have cost the travelling support at least €5000 between travelling, accommodation and spending money.

“Sure the next one will be in Croker,” they say in Boston, but has the stadium show in Ireland been taken away?

The fact that Croke Park has been batted around so much in the last few weeks, it seems ridiculous that the championship fight will now take place in Vegas according to White.

However, the atmosphere should be electrifying tonight. The Irish will show and do what they do best – being passionate, being loud and being patriotic. The war over the location of this championship fight has only begun, and I believe the Irish Invasion will blast their point across when the lights go down in the TD Garden tonight.

@PetesyCarroll

Ireland's leading MMA media outlet. Home of Severe MMA Podcast. Producers of 'Notorious,' 'The Fighting Irish' & other MMA docus