"If there's a stadium show happening in Europe, it's happening in Ireland"
"I've been asking for that for years."
Ahead of his UFC 246 main event against Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor spoke about what the support of the Irish fans meant to him.
"The support of the people means a lot to me," he told ESPN's Ariel Helwani. "I do this to entertain the people.
"This is for my fans and my people who believe in me - and not so much anything that's gone on, just my lack of commitment. I think that people who believe in me and support me, they deserve better."
McGregor remains popular with some Irish fight fans, for his achievements inside and outside The Octagon, but the last few years have not been easy.
The Crumlin native rode the wave of Irish support from his UFC debut in April 2013 all the way until he dethroned lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to hold that title and the featherweight belt in November 2016. He had achieved all he had set out to achieve and was, back then, looking for new challenges.
From November 2016 up until Saturday night in Las Vegas, however, McGregor fought only once in the UFC. He did smash pay-per-views records by boxing Floyd Mayweather in between but there were also a series of highly publicised legal issues and sanctions from Mixed Martial Arts bodies in the USA.
Many of the Irish people that were enthralled by his rise, and his back story, grew weary of his antics and drifted away. After 15 months away from the UFC, he returned to face Donald Cerrone. There were not as many Irish supporters in attendance at the T-Mobile Arena, as there have been in the past, but their voices, and distinct chants, could still be heard.
McGregor is still a massive draw and even if there was not a sea of Irish tricolours, the 18,000-seater venue was still crammed to capacity. 'The Notorious' was backed to start strong and so it proved. Cerrone was stunned by three vicious shoulders to the head and, after a head-kick and flying knee combination, was on the ropes.
McGregor pounced on top of his stricken opponent and unloaded a series of strikes. There were a few uncomfortable seconds of punishment before referee Herb Dean stepped in and ended the contest in a TKO win for the Dubliner.
In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, the 31-year-old dedicated the win to his mother, Margaret, who was not able to fly over to Vegas for the fight. He also gave a shout-out to all the Irish supporters watching in the arena, and around the world.
In a locker room interview with Helwani, not long after the fight, he expanded on those comments and said he hoped he had done Ireland proud.
"I love my mother," he declared. "She's the strongest woman in the world" He added:
"Thank you all for the support. My nation, I love you dearly. I appreciate the support and the backing, over the years. I know the Irish are very proud of my successes, and they hold me accountable, sometimes, when I let them down.
"That motivates me and I love my country dearly. I'm very honoured to raise my tricolour here tonight for the people of Ireland."
McGregor spoke on a similar theme when RTE's Brian O'Donovan grabbed a quick word with him after the post-fight press conference. "I want the Irish people to be proud of me," he said.
I just asked @TheNotoriousMMA #ConorMcGregor about the fans who’ve been disappointed by his behaviour outside of the octagon. He said: “I know some of the things have not been great, I owned up to that and we move on.” @RTEsport @rtenews pic.twitter.com/83iDVJeWss
— Brian O'Donovan (@BrianOD_News) January 19, 2020
There were still a raft of post-fight press duties to attend to before McGregor them moved on to his after-party at a nearby nightclub.
McGregor says he will enjoy the celebrations, spend time with his friends and family on Sunday and return to training on Monday. 'The Notorious' is back and he wants to remain active.
UFC president Dana White spoke of a possible stadium fight in Dallas, a return to Madison Square Garden or further high capacity stadium bouts in London and Cardiff. That certainly piqued McGregor's interest, as he declared:
"If there's a stadium show happening in Europe, it's happening in Ireland. It's not happening in the UK!
"I love the UK greatly, also, but it's not happening in the UK. If there's a stadium show ear-marked for me, in Europe, bring that mother****** to Ireland. I've been asking for that for years."
There was also mention of a fight at the Raiders' new Las Vegas home, the 65,000-seater Allegiant Stadium. Like opponents, the list of venues appears endless.