Dan Hardy column: Is the hype around UFC sensation Conor McGregor justified?

This week, British UFC welterweight and UFC commentator, Dan Hardy, takes a look at the hype surrounding Irishman Conor McGregor as the UFC 189 World Tour, designed to promote McGregor's upcoming title fight against dominant Featherweight World Champ, Jose Aldo, arrives in to London

Moving into the final leg of the UFC 189 World Tour, current featherweight champ, Jose Aldo, and challenger, Conor McGregor, will be arriving in to London on Monday. The pair will be arriving fresh from the North America media trail, which follows a lively trip to Brazil, the Champion's home country, where the tour began. Brazilian fans are incredibly passionate about the sport and their champions, and Aldo has been atop the featherweight division for some time. Including his reign as the WEC champ (which became the UFC title when the weight class was absorbed in 2010), Aldo has defended his position ten times, against the best featherweights in the world.

McGregor on the other hand is still relatively new to the UFC, and to the top level of the sport. His meteoric rise is unparalleled in the sport's history, having stopped four out of five opponents since his debut with the promotion in 2013, he has been demanding a shot at the belt from the start. Also unparalleled is his ability to market himself, and get under the skin of his opponents at the same time. Confident and brash, he has a reputation for being disrespectful and dismissive of his opponent, causing them to become very emotional and angry.

Whether this is all part of a carefully constructed game plan to push his foes' buttons and throw them off their game, or is just Conor being himself, only he really knows. But its effectiveness speaks for itself, as we see by the UFC’s investment in this world tour. McGregor has that star power, and with such a dominant champion, who has looked almost immovable in the division, he is just what the featherweight division required to shake things up.

This world tour has put champion and challenger face to face dozens of times and has been a great opportunity for both fighters to measure their next threat, and for fans to feel the genuine tension between the two.

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Conor McGregor at Boston press conference (Jeff Bottari Zuffa / LLC)

 

As the ‘UFC Embedded’ series has shown (mini documentary series available online), the hype around this fight is equalled only by the energy between Aldo and McGregor. Aldo famously said in an earlier interview, “Every king needs his joker”, referring to the antics and comments of his newest challenger. More than ever before though, fans feel like Aldo has a real threat ahead of him. Conor's seemingly unstoppable momentum, as well as his extreme extroversion, has made this match up the biggest talking point in the sport since Brock Lesnar was signed to compete.

After Monday's London leg, the world tour will culminate in Dublin on Tuesday. A fan event with a 3,000 capacity sold out in two and a half minutes when the tickets became available. The hometown fans will therefore be out in force, loyal to their local prospect. McGregor will be on top form, I’m sure, and Aldo will face his toughest crowd yet.

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Jose Aldo in action (JOSH HEDGES / ZUFFA / LLC)

 

After this, both fighters will return to their teams and begin preparation for UFC 189 on July 11th where they will be able to settle their differences and set the record straight inside the Octagon. This is the type of fight that will break records and push the sport further into the mainstream and, no doubt come July 11th, we will be in for a dramatic performance that will define careers.

@DanHardyMMA

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