BOSTON – Irish prospect Conor McGregor entered Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 26 event with absolutely unprecedented hype, to the point that even he admitted a decision win felt more like a loss than anything else. That makes UFC President Dana White an even bigger fan.
“I love that he’s that kind of a kid,” White told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) following Saturday night’s post-UFC Fight Night 26 press conference. “I love that he’s that kind of a fighter. That just shows you more and more the promise that this kid has.”
McGregor (14-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) made his UFC debut in April, earning a 67-second stoppage of Marcus Brimage and picking up a “Knockout of the Night” bonus in the process. After that result, White immediately revealed the next move for McGregor: a visit to Boston, a town with strong Irish heritage.
It was a wise decision, as McGregor was welcomed to the U.S. with open arms.
“The support out there was unbelievable,” McGregor said at the evening’s post-event press conference. “It was green walking out there. The place was green. Green flags, f—ing leprechauns jumping around. It was unbelievable.”
McGregor faced a tough Max Holloway (7-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC) on the preliminary portion of Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 26 event, which took place at Boston’s TD Garden. He looked comfortable in the opening round, though Holloway proved a difficult target to track. Things got more complicated in the second, when McGregor said he heard his knee pop, leading him to focus on a more wrestling-heavy gameplan.
While the adjustment worked, McGregor’s limited options forced him to settle for a unanimous-decision result, a reality that didn’t sit too well with the “Notorious” featherweight.
“It feels like a loss to me, to be honest,” McGregor said. “I wanted the finish. I felt the finish was there for me. I injured my knee midway through the second, and I just couldn’t get it out of my head, but looking back I should have just pulled my knee from my leg and hit him with it.
“I don’t come here for decisions. We are rewarded for finishes, and that’s what I’m looking for. I’m a finisher. Anything else to me, other than stealing the show? I planned on stealing the show, and it didn’t happen for me. It feels like I’m dealing with a loss at the minute.”
White has been one of McGregor’s most vocal supporters in the months since his UFC debut. The promotion gave him its full backing during fight week, holding a special media day in his honor, conducting a custom-designed poster contest for fans and even airing his main-event-worthy walkout on the night’s live broadcast when many other fighters’ entrances were held during commercial breaks.
The hope, of course, was that McGregor would turn in another star-making effort. That didn’t exactly come to fruition, but White said the fighter’s reaction to the adversity proves he’s worth the attention he’s been given.
“I love that attitude,” White said. “He’s pissed off he didn’t finish. Some guys will sit up here and go, ‘Eh, well, I won.’ No. He’s pissed at himself that he didn’t finish. Are you kidding me?
“Why am I promoting this kid? Why am I getting behind him? Because I love what he’s about.”
McGregor’s next move isn’t immediately clear. He’ll need some time to heal his knee, which White said will probably be examined in the U.S. this week. From there, White and his team will look to find a suitable opportunity for McGregor that will both offer him a chance to move up the featherweight ladder, as well as cash in on his rapidly growing fame.
For McGregor, the next booking can’t come soon enough.
“I mean what these guys have done from me, Dana giving me all this attention and putting this on me, these guys are making my dreams come true,” McGregor said. “I’m forever grateful to these guys. That’s why this is a loss to me.
“I come out to finish every time. Max is tough. I wanted to exchange with Max. I don’t know. I’m blown away, but realistically let’s get the next one in because I’m ready to whoop somebody real quick, yeah?”
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 26, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.
(Pictured: Conor McGregor)