UFC 189 World Tour: Iconic moments, reluctant questions and drunken fans

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It was a surprise to see Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor looking so fresh at yesterday’s media scrums. Appearing before the public press conference, both the champion and the challenger looked bright eyed and bushy tailed despite their frantic 10-day schedule, which prompted some chaotic interactions for the featherweight duo.

Before the day even began I expected both fighters to attempt to make big impressions on what was the last leg of their world tour. It seemed that McGregor touching the Brazilian’s neck in Toronto, after being warned not to, allowed the Irishman to gain some ground on him. ‘The Notorious’ made claims that Aldo had ‘broke’ in Rio and surely the champion would use his time in the Irish capital to strike back.

After the media scrums, the media convoy were asked to leave the Convention Centre so the staff could prepare the venue for the public. The press conference was initially supposed to be strictly for the fans, but after a late change of plan and because we were the last of the hacks in the building, five members of the Irish media were invited to ask questions to get the ball rolling at the event.

Of course, I was delighted to have been asked but I’ve never been a good man for questions at press conferences. There is a lot going on in the pre and post-fight gatherings, far more than just questions and answers. Unless I’m working a specific angle that I don’t think will come up otherwise, I’m usually fairly silent during the proceedings.

The problem was, the other four guys that were going to ask questions are excellent at it. Andrew McGahon, my SevereMMA.com colleague, Gus Ryan of Independent.ie, Niall McGrath of Talking Brawls and Stephen Lowry, formally of the Setanta MMA podcast, are some of the most recognisable Irish voices in the sport.

I quickly begged them to let me go first, not only due to my lack of confidence in the face of the situation, but also because I had some deadlines to meet to get my articles in the following day’s newspaper. Thankfully, they indulged me.

The ovation Dana White received left everyone wide-eyed as the UFC president made his way to the stage of the Convention Centre in an Irish soccer strip. Furthermore, when McGregor and Aldo made their entrances the noise of the crowd reached new volumes, a truly memorable moment for the sport in Ireland.

Then I got the nod.

The crowd were at fever pitch, cheering on McGregor, heckling Aldo with ‘Who are ye’, ‘Conor’s gonna get ya’ and ‘YOU WILL DIE’, while I made my best attempt and getting my question across.

“Peter Carroll, Irish Daily Mirror,” I opened. “The question is for Jose Aldo. You have witnessed the passion of the Irish fans on two occasions now, once in Boston and again today. Do you have to factor that into your preparation and do you think it will impact the fight?”

Nothing.

White shook his head up on the stage, I was told to wait for him to signal to me, and he did. So I asked again, but again I wasn’t heard. The audience were completely captivated by what was happening on the stage. I tried another time to no avail, but on the fourth endeavour I projected my voice enough to be heard by Aldo’s translator. By all accounts my role was pretty shitty in the exchange.

Aldo answered however, and immediately he went about getting to McGregor on his home turf.

“I came here, I’m the king of Dublin,” Aldo directed his answer to McGregor. “When I got here it was raining, but I brought the sun with me. I’m the champion.”

In reply, McGregor kicked his feet up on the table in front of him telling Aldo, “you’re looking at the king of Dublin” and proceeded to take the championship belt, which sat in front of the Nova Uniao frontrunner, before raising it aloft to the partisan crowd.

Again the audience surged at the iconic snatch and grab, something that is sure to be played over and over until the rivalry reaches its climax on July 11. McGregor, as expected, rose to the occasion in his hometown, and along with Aldo gave UFC what is sure to be remembered as one of the most successful pieces of promotional film in the history of the organisation.

UFC Embedded’s footage of the question and McGregor taking the belt at 8:27

McGahon, McGrath, Ryan and Lowry’s images beamed up on the screen as they asked their questions. They pulled some of the best quotes from Aldo, McGregor and White on significant topics regarding Irish MMA – Croke Park, the historical significance of the championship bout and UFC’s return to Dublin.

Nate ‘The Great’ Kelly, perhaps the most memorable of the fans’ questions on the day, sat on Lowry’s shoulders as he promised White that he is ‘the new breed’ and a future world champion, before asking him for an advance on his future pay checks. Lowry, one of the names associated with the formative years of Irish MMA, and Kelly, an exceptionally talented young martial artist, it was a poignant image of the old school meeting the new school.

Fans insisting Aldo would lose were no surprise, it happens at the majority of UFC press conferences. Even fans that told the champion to shine the belt were harmless, but things did get pretty hairy at some stages. Some of the fans were clearly drunk and some of their comments were bizarre, vulgar and at times, pretty shameful.

“Jose, fuck you,” said one of the fans as he gave the champion the finger. “Jose said he was (raised) by his father, what I want to know is, is he wearing his wife’s or his father’s knickers tonight? You pussy,” was another, somewhat elaborate, question for Aldo. “Are you going to get something done with that scar on your face because it’s not attractive,” pondered a man with a Scottish accent.

“Everybody has been saying you’re 10 years unbeaten Aldo, but when you look at the perspective of it, 18 fights in 10 years – what’s that, one and a half fights a year? You’re shit, mate,” offered one Irish spectator to the only man to ever hold the UFC’s 145 lbs title.

Aldo was called ‘a little fanny’, ‘bitch’, ‘pussy’ and one of the fans even wanted know what the Brazilian’s pussy smelled like. Classy stuff, indeed.

McGregor’s image, his parents and his nationality were up for discussion when the Dubliner visited Rio last October. Similar to last night’s events, many Brazilians were upset by the behaviour of some of their countrymen at the Q and A. Like the Dublin event, the Rio gathering sang of McGregor’s impending death at the hands of Aldo. Anyone that saw McGregor’s session in Rio knew that if Aldo came to Dublin that the champion would be in for similar hostility, but it’s fair to say that some of the gatherings’ antics came across poorly.

The Irish MMA athletes have done so well to project the Irish in a positive light. The nation now boasts eight fighters on the roster, the passion of the Irish fans has been noted around the world, but some of the people at yesterday’s press conference cut figures of the nation’s negative stereotypes from the past – drunk, vulgar, aggressive and uninformed.

You couldn’t really call them MMA fans. They are very much on board the McGregor bandwagon. A massive amount of the people who had attended Aldo and McGregor’s press conference exited the building straight after the featherweights left the stage, despite the fact that the seven other Irish fighters signed to the promotion were due to field some questions directly after it.

For the most part the event will be remembered as a success. McGregor’s snatch and grab is likely to be remembered for years to come. Aldo, McGregor and UFC are set to make a lot of money on the back of the Dublin leg of this tour, so all in all, it was mission accomplished for the promotion on the Emerald Isle.

@PetesyCarroll

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