Conor McGregor has been talking about a fight in Croke Park for as long as he’s been in the UFC. Until he took the featherweight title off Jose Aldo with complete ease, it was considered largely a pipe dream. Ireland is one of the wettest countries on Earth and the UFC is notoriously skittish about outdoor events. But Dana White promised McGregor a fight in the 80,000-seat rugby stadium if he won the featherweight belt, and McGregor tends to get what he wants.
But there’s more than just the rain and UFC’s cautiousness holding things back. The residents living around Croke Park are notoriously picky when it comes to what events are allowed in the stadium. A five-day run of concerts by Garth Brooks was scaled back to three and then canceled altogether after residents banded together to run the country superstar out of the country.
The reason residents were so angry? Croke Park was built to host Irish sports, and any event outside that mandate (as overseen by the Gaelic Athletic Association) has always caused controversy amongst the locals. It seems more like an excuse to limit the amount of people over-running the neighborhood nowadays rather than anything about nationalism and Irish pride. How else can you explain people being against McGregor, the biggest Irish fighter ever to make it in the UFC, fighting there? Here’s resident’s association Chair Pat Gates talking to the Irish Mirror:
“I don’t think it would be something that we would be very keen to see coming to Croke Park. Personally speaking, I think the fights are very brutal and violent. I’d be surprised if the GAA would endorse that sport.
“I don’t know the type of people that follow him and what sort of atmosphere there is in terms of rowdiness, in terms of public order, they are all the things that we would be seriously concerned about. They would be my concerns and certainly it would be something that I would hate to see the GAA endorse. I don’t know if they would but money talks.”
“I’m not speaking for all the residents but I don’t think it would go down well. It’s something we would have to discuss but we would have perennial issues with the type of crowds and what impact that is likely to have on the residents.”
So it comes down to him thinking “the fights are very brutal and violent” and anyone who follows them must be rowdy hooligans. That’s some pretty 1996 thinking when it comes to mixed martial arts, but it’s something UFC fans have come to expect on occasion when dealing with new international markets. Australia was so behind on MMA acceptance that cage fighting was banned in many of its provinces until recently and a UFC fighter was barred from attending a children’s charity event because of his disgusting profession.
You’d think Ireland, with its long history of combat sports, would be more accepting of MMA, but the bigger the boxing is in a certain area, the more the oldschool people in charge tend to resist mixed martial arts. Fortunately, the GAA has already said it would welcome an application from Conor McGregor and the UFC — a very good first step. And if Croke Park is out of the question, there’s always the 50,000-seat Aviva Stadium.
If it’s neither of those, the UFC could be in a quandary. There are no 15,000+ seat indoor arenas in Ireland — the last three UFC events in the country were held in the 3Arena (8,500 people), O2 Arena (9,500 people) and the Odyssey Pavilion (8,000 people) — nowhere near enough space to hold a massive Conor McGregor fight. So for Conor McGregor fighting in Ireland, it’s a case of go big or go home … home being Las Vegas, where the UFC has had great success drawing plane-loads of Irish into the city to spend tremendous amounts of money. They may be happy with that status quo, but what about McGregor?
(Via the Irish Mirror)