"For a few years Conor McGregor was the top, top man, and it was just incredible to watch his rise" 5 months ago

"For a few years Conor McGregor was the top, top man, and it was just incredible to watch his rise"

"It's always inspiring seeing your own countrymen or women take over the sport."

Back on October 20th, 2018, Conor McGregor was still coming to terms with his UFC 229 defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but he shook it off for one night to go see Katie Taylor fight.

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McGregor sat ring-side, at TD Gardens in Boston, and both lived and felt every moment as Taylor out-pointed Cindy Serrano to successfully defend her WBA and IBF titles. He later spoke of how the Bray boxer's performance had lit a fire inside him.

Following the bout, McGregor paid a back-stage visit and told Taylor, in her dressing room, "It is an absolute honour to see you fight."

"You deserve way more respect," McGregor declared. "Take your respect; demand it!

"That's why I would have loved if they had given you the mic. Start taking on the division, and going at it. Because you have the ferociousness in you. You're ruthless in there. I could see it in your eyes when you were in there.

"So just keep doing your thing. I have your back all the way. I'll back you all the way; whatever you need.

"It is an honour for me to come and see you. You're an Irish hero, and I mean that."

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Three and a half years on, Taylor certainly has the respect of all involved with boxing. She has added more world titles to strap around her waist and, on Saturday night, she faces Amanda Serrano [live on DAZN] in what will easily be the biggest fight in women's boxing, to date.

Ahead of the bout, Taylor sat down with us for a chat about what it will mean for her legacy, women's boxing, and the influence of Conor McGregor on Irish fighters.

Conor McGregor Conor McGregor with Katie Taylor following her WBA & IBF Female Lightweight World title bout against Cindy Serrano at TD Garden, in Boston. (Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile)
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Katie Taylor on positive influence of Conor McGregor

"I definitely think Madison Square Garden is going to be full of Irish people," Katie Taylor told us.

"I think every single person I know right now is actually going over to the fight, so it's going to be packed with Irish people. The atmosphere is going to be electric and it's just going to be a special night.

"The support from the Irish people for me has always been incredible, right from my amateur days, that's something that I'm just so grateful for and just to see the amount of support that I'm getting for the biggest night of my career as well, it's going to add to the magnitude of the fight for me. Yeah I just can't wait."

We asked about how the rise of Conor McGregor in the UFC, and his fighting journey - including his massive bout with boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. - influenced the current, and upcoming generations of Irish fighters.

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"He's the biggest name in UFC for the last few years and he's definitely transcended the sport," Taylor commented.

"He's just been incredible, his whole razzmatazz part of it as well. He's definitely had a huge impact on the Irish people as well, and Irish sport in general, the fact that he did take over the sport for a while, for a few years he was the top, top man, and it was just incredible to watch his rise.

"It's always inspiring seeing your own countrymen or women take over the sport, definitely for a few years he was the best athlete that we've had, so an amazing inspiration for a lot of people at home."

Taylor's point about McGregor being Ireland's best athlete, especially between the years 2013 to 2016, is hard to argue with. He arrived in the UFC with a point to prove and went on a charge that saw him hold aloft both the featherweight and lightweight titles at Madison Square Garden in November 2016.

Katie Taylor, left, and Amanda Serrano at the Empire State Building in New York ahead of their WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and The Ring lightweight title bout at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing via Sportsfile)
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'For such a small nation, we produce some great athletes'

This weekend's fight will have a sizeable Irish contingent at Madison Square Garden, with plenty more staying up late or setting alarms - the world over - to catch the big fight.

Asked about what sporting success means to the Irish people, Taylor replied, "Every single athlete that does well in Ireland, we're just clinging onto them, really.

"Every four years, when the Olympic games are on, for example, every single Irish person is glued to the TV, supporting our own people. And it's the same in every single sport. Every single time Conor McGregor is fighting, for example, everyone is glued to the TV. Michael Conlan was fighting there a few weeks ago and every Irish person is glued to the TV during that time as well.

"We are very supportive of each other. For such a small nation, we produce some great athletes. And part of it is a fighting spirit that the Irish people have in us. We definitely back each other up when we can."

Watch below: Katie Taylor on Roy Keane's phone call at her 'lowest point'.