Irish featherweight Conor McGregor on Saturday had an entire nation walking with him. Since McGregor last stepped in the cage, he had become a living sound bite and the most hyped Ireland-born fighter in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. McGregor filled the headliner position and met “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner Diego Brandao at The O2 in Dublin, some five years since the UFC last held an event in Ireland’s capital city.
From the opening bell of the first fight to the time McGregor stepped through the curtain for the main event, the lineup for UFC Fight Night “McGregor vs. Brandao” maintained a distinct Irish theme.
With 9,000 of his closest friends cheering him on, McGregor went with the rarely used but highly effective dual walkout entrance. When one song just cannot get your point across, the dual walkout is most successfully pulled off when a melodic song turns over into a more upbeat track. McGregor began his walk to the cage with the classic Irish ballad “The Foggy Dew,” performed by The Chieftains, before it kicked over into the brash hip hop cut of “Hypnotize,” by The Notorious B.I.G.
McGregor got the best of both worlds when he blended his Irish heritage with his knack for stirring a crowd into a frenzy with his words.
Brandao gambled with his walkout choice, and it did not pay off. When the opening notes of Darude’s “Sandstorm” hit an MMA fan’s earbuds, he or she immediately is taken back to Pride Fighting Championships-era Wanderlei Silva battering his opponents. If the 27-year-old Brandao was going to borrow “The Axe Murder’s” signature song, he needed to fight like his MMA idol. He fell far short of the mark.
After just four minutes in the cage, McGregor for at least one night answered all the critics’ questions. In the early going, McGregor’s chin was tagged by Brandao, but he battled back with effective counterpunching. When Brandao attempted to take down and grapple McGregor, the SBG Ireland trainee showed off improved submission defense, as well as a solid wrestling base. Elbows and a big left from McGregor spelled the end of Brandao’s bid for an upset. The end came at the 4:05 mark of round one, with McGregor punching away on a fallen Brandao before referee Leon Roberts waved off the fight.
McGregor walks away from his first UFC main event assignment on an 11-fight winning streak. In the process, he proved he is more than just a lightning rod for controversy and perhaps the promotion’s next featherweight star.
The rest of the UFC Fight Night “McGregor vs. Brandao” card proved to be a showcase for the best Irish prospects the Ultimate Fighting Championship had on its roster. Fellow SBG Ireland fighters Cathal Pendred and Patrick Holohan earned their first wins under the UFC banner.
The founding of fathers of Celtic rock, Horslips, played Pendred to the cage. “Dearg Doom” is a song about the underdog picking a fight. Against Mike King, Pendred appeared doomed after a first-round beatdown but came back for a dramatic second-round submission win. After the victory, Pendred may consider changing his nickname from “The Punisher” to “Dearg Doom” in honor of his first official UFC triumph.
Holohan picked rapper Macklemore’s “Ten Thousand Hours” as his personal soundtrack; 10,000 hours, or roughly 26 years, is the amount of time Holohan waited for his first fight in the world-famous Octagon. The Dublin native made the most of his UFC debut and pulled off an upset with his first-round choke on Josh Sampo.
UFC Fight Night ‘McGregor vs. Brandao’ Walkout SongsDiego Brandao: Darude “Sandstorm” | Before the Storm (2000)
Gunnar Nelson: Hjalmar “Leioin Okkar Allra” | Feroasot (2007)
Zak Cummings: Brantley Gilbert “Kick It in the Sticks” | Halfway to Heaven (2010)
Ian McCall: Avenged Sevenfold “This Means War” | Hail to the King (2013)
Brad Pickett: Chas & Dave “Gertcha” | Don’t Give a Monkey’s (1979)
Norman Parke: David Guetta feat. Skylar Gray “Shot Me Down” | Shot Me Down (2014)
Naoyuki Kotani: Rammstein “Du Hast” | Sehnsucht (1997)
Ilir Latifi: DeEtta Little “Gonna Fly Now” Rocky Soundtrack (1977)
Chris Dempsey: Five Finger Death Punch “Bad Company” | War Is the Answer (2009)
Neil Seery: Coldplay “Charlie Brown” | Mylo Xyloto (2011)
Phil Harris: Airbourne “Back in the Game” | Black Dog Barking (2013)
Cathal Pendred: Horslips “Dearg Doom” | The Tain (1973)
Mike King: Otherwise “Soldiers” | True Love Never Dies (2012)
Trevor Smith: Nirvana “Lake of Fire” | MTV Unplugged in New York (1994)
Nikita Krylov: Duane Eddy “Rebel Rouser” Have ‘Twangy’ Guitar Will Travel (1958)
Cody Donovan: The Dubliners “Rocky Road to Dublin” | The Dubliners (1964)
Patrick Holohan: Macklemore “Ten Thousand Hours” | The Heist (2012)
Josh Sampo: The Urge “It’s Getting’ Hectic” | Receiving the Gift of Flavor (1995)
Conor McGregor: The Chieftains “The Foggy Dew” | The Long Black Veil (1995); The Notorious B.I.G “Hypnotize” | Life After Death (1997)
Tommy Messano is the editor-in-chief of ULTMMA.com. You can contact him on Twitter at @ULTMMA.