Since the spectacular success of UFC Dublin, mixed martial arts has began slowly seeping into the Irish mainstream media. Now, with Conor McGregor on the cusp of a title shot, the Irish are starting to develop varying stances towards the combat sport. Here are the 10 different types of characters that have emerged in Ireland since the explosion of MMA into the mainstream.
Can Conor McGregor fight the Undertaker and the winner gets Shawn Michaels and the Ultimate Warrior in a three-way steel cage match?
— Ewan MacKenna (@EwanMacKenna) September 28, 2014
At first glance, there are a lot of comparisons to be drawn with MMA and professional wrestling (the WWE kind). The bravado, the macho posturing, the trash-talking and the story lines are all reminiscent of something out of WWE Raw. That coupled with corruption in sport in general being at an all-time high has left some people questioning the legitimacy of the UFC. This was prevalent after McGregor's dominant win over Poirier at the weekend which a lot of people falsely claimed was proof that the UFC was fixed. Although the fights are not rigged, the skeptics can have legitimate grievances over the lenient attitudes towards performance enhancing drugs tests which are doing the promotion absolutely no favours.
The "It's Not A Sport" Brigade
— Tony O'Donoghue (@Corktod) July 19, 2014
MMA is a relatively young sport and, as we know, people tend to be afraid of new things. Older generations who have been brought up thinking boxing was the only combat sport in existence are particularly vociferous when it comes to publicly denouncing MMA. These folk constantly regurgitate buzz words like "barbaric" and refer to it as "cage fighting" to irk the fans. Oddly enough, there has yet to be a valid argument proving that MMA is not a sanctioned sport.
The Ignorant "Experts"
Why do some people feel the need to weigh in their opinion despite having absolutely no knowledge of the topic? This has happened quite a bit in the Irish media since UFC Dublin. "This is the first time I've watched UFC but..." has become the new "I'm not racist... but". The phrase is usually followed by a baseless opinion that is almost never backed up by facts.
One would think that education opportunities in this country reaching their zenith would mean the death of "reckon"s and "seems like"s being thrown willy-nilly into informed debate. However, when you looked at the number of people who tweeted that they thought/reckoned/from their perspective it looked like Poirier went down too easily, you quickly realise that there is absolutely no hope for humanity and we should just pull the plug and start again. This doesn't just apply to MMA, listen to any radio-phone in show for a good cross-section of the perpetual reckoners.
One trait that seems to be instilled in every Irish person since birth is an overwhelming resentment towards successful people. That being said, the arrogance of McGregor is understandably a bitter pill to swallow for some. He backs his cockiness up by consistently getting results but it will take the some of the public a little while to get used to an Irish athlete that isn't cripplingly humble in victory.
This kind is the rarest of all. People tend to have a strong opinion towards the sport, one way or the other but every so often you run into someone who is refreshingly neutral. Conversing with them is like a dream.
Undoubtedly, McGregor is bigger than MMA in Ireland. And as such, a cult of personality has developed around the Notorious. He has vindicated his arrogance somewhat with a stunning win over a top fighter at the weekend but some fans continue to prematurely hold him up as some sort of deity. McGregor claims to thrive under pressure and if that's the case, his possibilities are endless with the expectations some people have of him. "He's going to be champ... double champion... actually, a triple belt holder! Scratch that, Conor McGregor is going to be the one who establishes peace in the middle east."
The Casual Fans
These are the people who UFC president Dana White loves. They are the ones who put the meat in the seat. They are the ones who buy all those pay-per-views. They're not quite sure what they're looking at but by God do they find it entertaining. A casual fan at an MMA event is like an ASBO winning the lottery, they just don't know what to do with themselves. Casual fans are big fans of "stand and banging" i.e. knockouts, but loathe the technical side of the sport such as grappling and jiu-jitsu.
"I only watch the early UFC video tapes and old Pride events." We get it, you got into the sport before it really took off. No need to keep shoving it in people's faces.
The Hardcore Fans
Hardcore fans have a genuine love for the sport and will not only watch every major event, but also try to understand the technical aspect of it. A hardcore Irish fan will know that there's more to MMA than Conor McGregor but they will appreciate the fact that he is probably the best chance Ireland has at winning a UFC belt. Word of warning, they can be just as annoying as the anti-MMA brigade. Anyone who's ever been locked into a two hour debate over who's the best grappler in the middleweight division or has had to listen to someone list off their favourite guard passes will know this pain all too well.
This is the next stage after being a hardcore fan. Simply put, these people need to leave their houses more often. There are so many different MMA promotions, events, documentaries, similar combat sports, articles, columns, interviews etc that one cannot possibly consume it all. That doesn't stop some folk from trying. If you attempt to watch every UFC, Cage Warriors, Bellator, Legacy, Titan, Metamoris, KSW, One FC, Invicta, Pancrase, BAMMA, Europe MMA and EFC event, there's only going to be one outcome...