MMA

Conor McGregor's Next Fight Could Be The 'Most Irish' UFC Fight Ever

Conor McGregor's Next Fight Could Be The 'Most Irish' UFC Fight Ever

Ever since the much-heralded Irish' takeover' of the UFC began more than three years ago, there hasn't yet been a case of two fighters from our island squaring off against each other in the Octagon.

For a while it seemed like the UFC were trying to align the stars to have Conor McGregor face Joe Duffy (the man who inflicted McGregor's second career defeat back in 2010) but Duffy's loss earlier this year to Dustin Poirier put paid to those plans, temporarily at least.

For now, it seems that the closest we'll get to two Irish fighters facing off in the UFC is the rumoured upcoming bout between Conor McGregor and lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.

'Hang on a second', we hear you cry. Eddie Alvarez? From the Alvarez clan out in Kilbeggan? We joke, but believe it or not Eddie Alvarez is one half Puerto Rican and, yes, one half Irish.

In an interview with Fox News Latino in 2011, Alvarez elaborated on his Irish roots.

I think it’s important because of how proud that Latin community is of their fighters. I’m also half Irish as well. I’m proud of both sides and they are both really well known to be fighting heritages so I tell everyone all the time they say, ‘What are you’? I say I’m Irish. I’m Puerto Rican. I guess I was born to fight. I’ve got the fighting Irish, and Puerto Ricans are some of the best fighters in the world. I’m proud of who I am, but it doesn’t define me as a person. I’m a whole lot more than just Spanish or Irish or whatever but definitely it’s given me help. It’s given me a push and I’m very proud of my Spanish heritage.

Having said how proud he was of his Irish heritage in the past, it seems that ever since the bluster of Conor McGregor has propelled the Dubliner to superstar status in the UFC has impacted Alvarez's opinion of Ireland.

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It is no surprise to see Alvarez aim his cross-hairs at McGregor and, by extension, his fans. If we have learned anything from McGregor's two bouts so far this year it's that anyone who gets booked opposite him is in for the payday of their life. Numerous fighters across three separate weight divisions have devoted their entire social media strategies to chasing down a fight with the Dubliner.

Alvarez, too, has been playing that game.

Speaking to Jon Anik and Kenny Florian recently, Alvarez doubled down on his anti-McGregor sentiment.

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I've said it a million times, he's just not a championship fighter. Not a five, 5-minute round fighter. Never has been, never will be. Some guys can have the chops for it and some guys don't. I've said it from the beginning, I looked at him as a three, 5-minute round fighter and that's where he'll be, that's where he should stay. I think he's good. I think anything past 8-9 minutes it just starts to look sloppy and looks a little messy.

If McGregor has proved anything so far in the UFC, however, it's that he performs best when his opponents underestimate him. Just ask Dustin Poirier and Chad Mendes.

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Who is Eddie Alvarez?

The reigning UFC lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez (28-4) won his title in a first round upset of Rafael Dos Anjos last July. Before that Alvarez had previously held the Bellator title in the same weight division, becoming the first fighter to hold gold in both of the largest MMA promotions in the world.

He is a gritty, in-your-face boxer/wrestler who is known for pushing forward at all times - a strategy which has landed him in some trouble against power punchers in the past. Alvarez has just four UFC bouts under his belt since debuting with the company two years ago. In his first fight under the UFC banner, he was beaten by perennial contender Donald Cerrone but put together successive wins against Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and Dos Anjos to claim UFC gold.

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Of all of Alvarez's UFC opponents so far, it could be argued that Anthony Pettis would be the most stylistically similar to McGregor. Pettis, a flashy striker (though without the same concussive power in his hands that McGregor owns) was soundly defeated by Alvarez but it was noticeable that he abandoned his usual walk-forward strategy, in favour of a more conservative gameplan aimed at stifling Pettis by pushing him against the fence at every opportunity.

Is it likely that Alvarez would employ a similar strategy against Conor McGregor? 'The Notorious' is as good a counter-puncher as there is in MMA at the moment and has always done well against aggressive fighters who push forward and Alvarez will know this. On the other hand, he was criticised by some sections of MMA fans for a less-than-exciting performance against Pettis so there's every chance that the Philadelphian will attempt to win the the fight in spectacular fashion.

And that might just lead to his downfall.

There is also another interesting wrinkle to any potential Alvarez vs. McGregor fighter and his name is Mark Henry. Henry, Alvarez's head coach, has been studying the Dubliner's fighting style ever since he landed in the UFC on behalf of another of his fighters, Frankie Edgar. While it's starting to look that an Edgar vs. McGregor fight might never happen, it would be massively interesting to see if Henry could transplant his Edgar strategy to Alvarez.

If and when this fight gets booked for the first modern UFC show in the Big Apple you feel that, whatever happens, a new chapter of MMA history will be written. And, as has been the case with the UFC's record-breaking last couple of years, Conor McGregor's name will be all over it.

See More: Eddie Alvarez Says Conor McGregor Fans Are 'Easily Swayed'

John Balfe

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