Mick Conlan, the brilliant boxer unjustly denied Olympic glory, and Conor McGregor, the ubiquitous mixed martial artist who fights tonight for redemption.
The two are similar in some respects and have struck up a friendship over the past year. McGregor has become one of Conlan’s most vocal supporters, and had events transpired differently, he could have been watching the Belfast bantamweight fight for Olympic gold today before he stepped into the octagon for his rematch with Nate Diaz.
The Crumlin UFC phenomenon fights in Vegas tonight at the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas, headlining UFC 202 and looking to avenge his loss second round submission loss to Diaz earlier this year.
Before he went to Rio, Conlan spoke to Irish-Boxing.com about ‘The Notorious,’ stating “Conor McGregor, what more can you say, he’s a gentleman.”
“He’s not the character you see on TV where he’s all brash, he’s probably one of the most down to Earth sportspeople I’ve met.”
Conlan’s fellow Ulsterman, middleweight Conor Wallace, has been the envy of many the past two months, relocating to Vegas as a sparring partner for McGregor. It was Conlan himself who helped set the pair up, and he explained that “I got him [McGregor] matched up with Conor Wallace; He was asking me for sparring partners, had we got southpaws.”
“Conor’s only come on to the squad recently and I actually said that he’s perfect for Diaz, he’s tall and he throws that big jab out.”
“He’s very very sharp, he’s a lot sharper than Diaz.”
“I said Joe Ward as well and Adam Nolan, and he went and looked them up and he seen that Conor was perfect for Diaz.”
“I brought him down and he saw how the sparring went and as soon as he got out of the ring he said ‘I loved that, that was perfect, I felt that I was in situations where I was in the fight against Diaz and I want him again.'”
That sparring session at Dublin’s Straight Blast Gym in June was actually the first time Conlan and McGregor had met personally, but Conlan described how “he had been talking to me on Twitter and he had sent me a big lovely message after I had won the World title.”
“It’s great when you see Irish sportspeople applauding you – as I do for him, because I think he’s a fantastic athlete.”
“What he’s done for the sport is out of this World because not many people can do that for a sport, transcend it like him.”
“He gave me his number and he texts me all the time.”
In terms of boxing, Conlan was massively surprised by the talent possessed by the Dubliner and he revealed that “after watching him spar, on the boxing side, he was very very impressive to be honest.”
“I knew he was a good boxer but I didn’t expect him to be as good when he was in against an amateur [Wallace] who is that sharp and that fast.”
“He had very good timing and very good skill, he’s a very skillful fighter.”