Dana White on UFC Ireland, Conor McGregor and Irish fans
UFC President Dana White was in Trinity College yesterday where he joined the esteemed company of the likes of W.B. Yeats, Sir Alex Ferguson and, um, Bill O'Reilly by receiving the Honorary Patronage of the Phil.
By John Balfe
When are they coming back?
When the UFC last held an event on these shores in January 2009, Dana White described the attendees packed into The O2 on that cold January evening as "pound-for-pound, the best f***ing place we've ever played. The f***ing Irish are crazy!" You can imagine then that as soon as the floor was opened to questions, the first order of business was to find out exactly when they UFC will hold a show here again.
"We're coming", said White. "We're seven or eight years behind over here and the reason is that we don't have the television deal that we need. We're working on events that will happen in London, Manchester, Dublin, Northern Ireland, where we do the same venue every year - and I'm talking big events, the kind of events you guys would want over here."
MMA as an Olympic sport
Another topic of discussion was the IOCs decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic schedule from 2020 onwards, a move which will surely have an impact on the future of MMA. White, while disappointed, remained optimistic that this could eventually pave the way for MMA to be considered as an Olympic sport.
"Maybe they should start looking at Mixed Martial Arts, which incorporates wrestling", White suggested. "Maybe this is part of the evolution of us getting into the Olympics."
Welcome to the family, Conor
Recent UFC signee Conor McGregor was a hot topic too, with White seemingly delighted that the Dubliner is now part of the Zuffa family. "We got him and we're very happy about that", said White of the Cage Warriors two-division champion. Adopted Irishman Gunnar Nelson was another who the audience questioned White on, with one fan telling the UFC boss that he was certain that the Reykjavik man will submit Jorge Santiago this weekend in London.
The highlight of the Q&A though, aside from one fan asking if Dana is going to send Chael Sonnen to North Korea to 'sort shit out' ("he'd either fix it, or make it worse"), was when one plucky fan, Dave Fogarty from Co Meath, asked Dana if he could put the belt around the winner of this weekend's main event between Renan Barao and Michael McDonald in London. Dana obliged, so it looks as though Fogarty will beat Conor McGregor by a couple of months to be the first Irishman to set foot in the Octagon since Tom Egan at UFC 93.
White has promised to tweet the name of a pub that fans could meet him in after the talk but a re-emergence of his Meniere's Disease, a chronic inner ear illness which affects balance and is often aggravated by air travel, put paid to those plans. Despite his obvious discomfort, White answered dozens of questions in the hour-long Q&A, before having to be physically helped from the stage but not before answering practically every question in the room.