We are now less than a week out from the title unification bout between McGregor & Aldo. Like him or loath him, McGregor is at the forefront of the MMA world right now and on the cusp of pure and utter greatness. I was lucky enough to be working behind the lens in The Helix, Dublin on that rainy night in June 2012 when McGregor took his first world title against Dave Hill. There was a real sense that night that this guy was going to be huge. He oozed confidence. He moved flawlessly, landing from everywhere with thunderous power that made the hairs on the back of the necks of those close enough to hear the thuds stand on edge.

About to become world Champion

Roger Kennedy/Lethal Photography

Even though we are only 3 years on, MMA in this country is unrecognizable. Yes, there has always been an MMA community here, just a lot smaller than the one that exists now. UFC events were once watched by die hard Irish fans. But times have changed. This Saturday night is different. Gatherings are taking place in every corner of this country. Venues are putting on ticketed viewing parties (bear in mind it’s on at approximately 4am here). Everywhere you go, people are giving their predictions. Everywhere you go, all you hear is Conor McGregor.  Young kids are looking at the McGregor now and instead of wanting to be Liverpool or Manchester United stars, they want to be UFC stars. Instead of football shirts, it’s UFC shirts. For Ireland as a country, it is huge. Conor bringing that belt home and perhaps doing a sell out Croke Park show is not only mouth-watering as a fan, but from a financial aspect for this country it’s something that would benefit Dublin City’s bars, hotels, restaurants, taxis, as well as event staff, alike. Conor is not only getting richer but he is benefiting his entire nation. Conor once said “if one of us goes to war, we all go to war” and that is certainly how it feels in Ireland right now. Bear in mind the Republic of Ireland has a population of 4.5 million, 2 million less than the City of Rio and dwarfed by Brazil’s 200 million, so when a sports star here does well ,they get supported. But when they do what Conor has done and is doing? They become cult figures, heroes.

I personally will be watching it with my family. Of course, I want Conor to prevail. I know Conor is incredibly confident but as an MMA fan and having watched Aldo for many years, I can’t help but be a little nervous. Aldo has been a machine for the past 10 years and even if he does indeed lose his title, the legacy he will leave behind will be hard for anyone to repeat. For now a nation holds it’s breath as December 12th draws closer. Whether the oxygen gasp will be in exhilaration or dejection remains to be seen.

 

About The Author

Roger Kennedy
Staff Writer/Photographer

As Cork, Ireland's longest standing martial arts photo journalist, Roger Kennedy (aka Lethal Photography) attends dozens of promotions annually. His photographs have been featured in many media outlets including 'The Evening Echo' and "The Sunday World." Being a fan of MMA for a long time gives him the sharp tools he needs for the high tempo action while his easy going character allows him to put his subjects at ease while shooting outside of the cage