There’s been more than a few murmurings about Conor McGregor bringing the UFC to Croke Park, Philip Hanna sheds some light on the situation for us.
Picture the scene, Croke Park just after midnight, flood lights beaming down on 90,0000 plus people from Ireland, America, Brazil and all across Europe. A massive canopy covering the UFC octagon at the centre of the pitch. The worlds eyes on Dublin, a chorus of ole ole ole ole rings out around the stadium and can be heard from O’Connell street and beyond. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain lads.
It’s a nice thought, and until recently it was solely the stuff of dreams and wishes. Conor McGregor has changed all that, with his UFC record at 4-0 and an incredible wave of popularity behind him, he might just be the man to bring the UFC to Croke Park. It was first mentioned around the time of UFC Dublin in July 2014. Witnessing the crowd in Dublin, UFC president Dana White talked about wishing we had a larger indoor arena here. When asked about Croke Park, he laughed it off mentioning the fear of rain. However McGregor soldiered on in the UFC, as his popularity grew, Croke Park was again brought up, this time Dana White simply replied, ‘we’ll see.’
Over the next few months it became a common question asked of Irish fighters, in Conor McGregor’s mind it’s a forgone conclusion. Any UFC event at Croke Park will have to be headlines by the Dublin native. Rumours of the UFC having a hold on a date at Croke Park in May added fuel to the fire, but that’s a standard move when considering venues, they’re likely to have several arenas booked for around the same time. Last week Dana revealed that McGregor will get a title shot at Jose Aldo’s Featherweight belt if he overcomes the German Dennis Siver in Boston this Sunday. He quickly added, ‘in Vegas or Croke Park.’ More recently UFC Welterweight and training partner of McGregor, Cathal Pendred weighed in on the subject saying, “I know that when the UFC first went looking for a venue, both the Aviva and Croke Park were tentative about it. They weren’t too sure about it, they just didn’t know if they wanted to do it at all. Now, I know that they are both fighting for it. It is not settled on Croker, the Aviva are still in it and they both want it badly. I don’t know which one it’s going to be, Croker would be amazing but so would the Aviva. One will happen for sure.” So what does it all mean? Should we be planning a big night out in May or hoping for a lottery win to travel to Vegas.
The largest show in UFC history was attended by 55,000 fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. The UFC is not against putting on large stadium shows, but they are cautious. Logistically it would be very tough, a lot of things could go wrong. They would have to be certain of selling enough tickets to make it a success and to avoid rain pouring down on the octagon, a large canopy would have to be built. In order to earn PPV revenue from the event they would have to air it in primetime back in the United States so that means a midnight start to the main card here in Ireland at the earliest. It could be all talk, publicity and hype at it’s finest. Last year I would have thought so, but the momentum is building. American journalists are starting to ask the question at every press conference and Dana seems to be coming around to the idea.
2015 is a new world in Irish MMA, a world where anything seems possible on the back of Conor McGregor’s unprecedented success. If he beats Dennis Siver on Sunday, expect some big news from the UFC.
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