Conor McGregor: I’ll be too powerful for Jose Aldo

Irish star talks the talk in Dublin ahead of Las Vegas UFC title fight

The story's out. Ireland's king of pain Conor McGregor can do restrained-normal. There were no roundhouse kicks aimed at the throat of Jose Aldo, his Brazilian opponent and the current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) world featherweight champion.

The traditional choreographed licks of faux hatred and heavy eyeballing had been pencilled in for later in the ‘Face-Off’, a two-hander that would be played out by the fighters at Dublin’s Convention Centre in front of 2,500 fans. Yes, on Tuesday night they came to watch them watch.

In the matinee event it was McGregor lite, schlock free and on the last leg of a world tour to promote his July title fight in Las Vegas.

“Rio, Vegas, Boston, New York,Toronto” he says “was crazy.”


For those of a certain age who don’t yet know, McGregor is the brash, profane-laden breeze blowing through the UFC. His demeanour is that of the already crowned, although he hasn’t yet sat on the throne.

Aldo possesses the title, but hardly the studied headline-grabbing mien of the 26-year-old featherweight from Dublin who can sell blarney to the Irish and knows nothing if not the certainty of his own ability.

That will be tested on July 11th at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Sin City in a five-round contest, where choking and kicking are encouraged, not outlawed. It will be his 20th fight, but only his sixth in the UFC and three of those have lasted less than two minutes.

McGregor wears shut-out shades and large body tattoos. They peep up to his neck from under his tee shirt. His arm is awash with ink. He is coolly understated, chilled and kicking back in front of 16 cameras. Maybe exhausted.

“Wus-sup,” he says looking at the chair provided for him as though it’s Aldo asking him to be friends. He pulls it aside, faces the small crowd and puts them at ease.

“I think I’ll be too strong for him. I’ll be too powerful for him,” he says. “I feel everyone he’s fought before has been afraid. He’s made a career out of beating short stocky American wrestlers who are not too good on their feet, who are intimidated. Me, I’m going to go straight for him and I’m going to put him away.”

His favourite grappling technique is the ‘Rear Naked Choke’. Whose isn’t? His favourite striking technique is the knee and he never did a degree but has “a master’s in unarmed combat.” The Historical Debating Society missed a natural, Mystic Meg a competitor.

“I’ve learned nothing about myself that I didn’t already know and the same about my opponent,” he says of the last few months of selling the McGregor brand. “I don’t think he wants it the way I want it. Subtle tells.

“He doesn’t want the belt in close proximity to him. He doesn’t want to hold on to the belt. He wants to hand the belt back. Every time. It’s a mental sign. It’s what I see.

“I’ve learned from Jose what I already knew. He does not want this fight. He does not want me near him but July 11th there’s nobody to keep me away.

“We are known for our boxing fighting capabilities,” he adds bringing the Irish nation with him and warming to his stock in trade hyperbole.

“This is what our country is known for way back. This is the purest form of combat known to man.”

Dana White owns UFC. He acquired it in 2001 and built it into one of the world's most popular sports brands – Mixed Martial Arts. Conor "The Notorious" McGregor is one of his cash cows, a headline act.

His style is “creative” his strength “belief.” He bristles with positive self approval. He’s very un-Irish.

“I take inspiration from everyone and everything,” he says. “I’m inspired by current champions, former champions, true competitors, people dedicated to their dream, hard workers, dreamers, believers, achievers.”

How good he really is we don’t know. Aldo, a 28-year-old who comes from Jiu-jitsu to McGregor’s boxing will be the Irishman’s first serious contest. He was a soccer player before switching rectangle for Octagon.

McGregor is quick and supple, light on his feet and minted in a Tallaght primary school near Tymon Park. Now he is global.

“If the mind is not in it you will be beaten,” warns The Notorious.

The Brazilian midget as he has called him, sits nearby unconcerned.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times