UFC’s Conor McGregor speaks exclusively to UTV

Conor McGregor talks to UTV's Ruth Gorman. Credit: UTV

UFC superstar Conor McGregor has spoken exclusively to UTV in his first television interview since the aftermath of his historic win over Eddie Alvarez last month.

The Dubliner became the first UFC fighter to hold two title belts simultaneously when he outclassed his opponent in New York City to add the lightweight belt to his featherweight title.

He may have since had to relinquish the featherweight belt due to inactivity in that division, but that certainly has not fazed McGregor.

The 28-year-old secured his boxing licence at the end of November and, during an appearance in a Belfast bar on Friday night, he told UTV’s Sports Correspondent Ruth Gorman that new challenges were always welcome.

Just as well, considering his impending fatherhood with his first child due in May …

“I’m always looking to challenge myself,” McGregor said.

“We’ve received the boxing licence, there are opportunities in the works and we’ll see where it goes.”

Belfast has more than its fair share of talent in that sphere, from world champion Carl Frampton to the likes of Mick Conlan who recently turned pro after a successful amateur career.

Conlan, who will make his professional debut in New York City in March, appeared at the Devenish alongside McGregor.

And the Notorious had a few words of wisdom to offer in his own inimitable style.

Suggestions that he had to try to “crack” America were waved aside in favour of a firm declaration: “Go in and be YOU.”

Mick Conlan and Conor McGregor. Credit: UTV

Referring to Conlan’s passionate outburst in the wake of a controversial result at the Olympics in Rio, McGregor insisted: “For that moment that you got robbed in the Olympics, you were yourself.

“You were who you are around your own people – that’s the way to be.”

He added: “I don’t have to tell you to train hard. You’re a hard worker; you’re a successful amateur boxer and you’ve gone into the pro ranks.

"I don’t have to sit here and say: ‘Hey, kid, hit the bag three times a week.’"

Go out and be yourself. Take. No. S***.

Conor McGregor

Conlan took the opportunity to suggest McGregor should walk out with him when he makes his debut at Madison Square Gardens on St Patrick’s Day.

That was met with roars of approval from watching fans – and with delight from McGregor himself.

“You’ve got a deal!” he grinned, as they shook on it.

The Notorious agrees to walk Mick Conlan to the ring at Madison Square Gardens on his pro debut. Credit: UTV

McGregor may be known for his outspoken dismissal of his opponents, but he has plenty of respect for the “unbelievable” talent of Northern Ireland’s boxers.

“I’ve fought many times here, up north. Solid, tough men and I’ve always had a tough fight every time I’ve come out here,” he said.

Of course, Newry’s Conor Wallace sparred with McGregor as he prepared for his rematch with Nate Diaz in Las Vegas and the Notorious hailed him as a “phenomenal” boxer.

“Usually the taller, rangier guys aren’t so tough, but he can take a smack – and he can give it as well,” he said.

McGregor was enjoying being back in Belfast after thrilling fight fans with his show of support for stablemate Artem Lobov at his recent bout at the SSE Arena.

Conor McGregor jumped into the octagon to celebrate with Artem Lobov at the SSE Arena Belfast last month. Credit: Pacemaker

Thoughts of what lies ahead never seem too far from the UFC star’s mind though.

“I’m training and preparing,” he said.

“For fatherhood, but also for what’s next. I’m preparing for … who else wants me. What else is next. So we’ll see.

“Right now, I’m a two-weight world champion. Whatever happens after that, we’ll see.”

With McGregor a proven box office hit, there is little doubt that whatever does come next, the world will be watching.