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Friday 9 December 2016

'I made $7m fight happen', boasts Conor McGregor

Dee Devlin (L) and Host/VIP Conor McGregor
Dee Devlin (L) and Host/VIP Conor McGregor
UFC Fight Night - Conor McGregor v Dennis Siver...18 January 2015; Conor McGregor celebrates defeating Dennis Siver in the second round of their bout. UFC Fight Night, Conor McGregor v Dennis Siver, TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE...ABC
Ann Mulligan, Manager of SBG Gym, and Karl Cannon, Head Striking Coach. SBG Gym, Concorde Industrial Estate, Naas Road, Dublin
Ann Mulligan, Manager of SBG Gym, and Karl Cannon, Head Striking Coach. SBG Gym, Concorde Industrial Estate, Naas Road, Dublin.
Karl Cannon, Head Striking Coach, left, sparring with trainee Claudio Conti. SBG Gym, Concorde Industrial Estate, Naas Road, Dublin

CONOR McGregor is claiming all the credit for selling out the biggest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event in history in Las Vegas this weekend.

Never one to shy away from the microphone, 'The Notorious' McGregor claimed last night that the Irish are "running the fight game".

Up to 5,000 Irish fans are expected to travel to Nevada for McGregor's interim featherweight title fight with Chad Mendes at the MGM Grand in the early hours of Sunday morning, with most having left Dublin on Wednesday and Thursday.

The 26-year-old faced off with Californian Mendes at a press conference in Las Vegas, and took full credit for an expected $7.1m (€6.4m) in ticket sales. Just under 17,000 will be packed into the sold-out arena.

McGregor was initially meant to fight champion Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight belt, before the Brazilian pulled out through injury.

"I am happy to be here, I am happy to represent my country, I am happy to be giving the UFC this $7.1m gate. It's me who's after bringing all of this," McGregor proclaimed.

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"We've got superstars singing us into the octagon (the fight ring). Who do you think got us all that? Me," he said.

Famous for his trash-talking and confidence, McGregor said once the talking is over he's prepared to get down to the real business.

"I'm just waiting to pull the trigger. We've done a lot of build -up for this event. Like I said, this is the McGregor show. I have built this, I will relish it and I'm going to dominate," he added.

He's on the verge of greatness, but it wasn't always plain sailing for the Dublin man.

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Ann Mulligan, the sister to coach John Kavanagh, has been working for Straight Blast Gym (SBG) since 2009 and told the Herald that John had to rejuvenate a young McGregor, who wasn't sure where he was going.

"It was around 2009 and Conor had begun to miss a lot of sessions, so his mam (Margaret) decided to give John a call one day. She told him that she couldn't get him to go out and get back to the gym, and that John was the only one that Conor would listen to.

READ MORE: Conor McGregor: I'm up for $3.5m bet and will knock out Mendes

"John just had a word with him, told him to get up and back training and to be fair to Conor he did. He's always so focused in what he's doing," said Ann.

SBG, now located on the Naas Road, is home to more than 500 members with state of the art equipment and more than 20 coaches for all different types of martial arts, but both McGregor and Kavanagh will admit that they came from humble beginnings.

"I remember when John bought his first place out in Phibsboro. I'd call it a gym, but it really wasn't nice enough or big enough to warrant that," Ann told the Herald.

READ MORE: Where to watch the Conor McGregor fight in Dublin

"It was more like a lock-up with a shutter. Our new place is 10,000 square foot, and I remember us looking in the cleaning cupboard and literally laughing at it being the same size as John's old lock-up.

"I remember when John got the shed in Phibsboro, he was so proud of it, but when he showed my parents, they nearly cried," said Ann.

"I never thought John would make a career out of it all, he's got a degree in engineering."

Ann isn't quite sure whether McGregor began in Phibsboro or at their next home in Rathcoole, but said their training then was very basic in comparison.

"The place in Rathcoole was basically a couple of mats and a ping-pong table. In the early days they just used to look at old videos from the UFC, and then copy styles in their training. They'd be there every single night training," she added.

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