The UFC thundered into Dublin with a bang and not too little controversy last month but lead man Conor McGregor accepts that criticism of the sport is part and parcel of the business.
A sell-out crowd cheered McGregor to a first-round win over Brazilian Diego Brandao in the O2, and also saw Irish fighters Cathal Pendred, Neil Seery and Patrick Holohan claim victories.
There was a record TV audience for the broadcaster, 3e, for the event with 600,000 viewers in total.
But for all the zealous support for McGregor and his fellow fighters there was also a notable amount of negativity, mostly targeted on the brutality of the mixed martial arts bouts, in particular the end stages of the contests, which often come across as less than noble.
But McGregor, known as The Notorious, takes the barbs on the chin, and is content to get on with business.
“At the end of the day people will cry about it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea,” he told RTÉ Sport.
“Back in the old days there were hunters and gatherers, I’m a hunter. There’s gatherers out there who need to go and gather the berries so hunters can eat, that’s the way it is.
“There’s people I have heard have said stuff about the sport but, whatever, I don’t care. I know that the martial arts life has given me a discipline and a drive and a dedication that I would never have before and the same with these kids coming through.
“You can do good or bad and people will say stuff. It makes no difference to me. This is a billion dollar business so people can say what the f**k they want.
“I can’t hear what they’re saying, they’re not living like I’m living. I’m living good, I’m training hard, I’m fit in my body and mind. I’d say half the people that are complaining can barely run up the stairs.”
“I can’t hear what they’re saying, they’re not living like I’m living. I’m living good, I’m training hard, I’m fit in my body and mind. I’d say half the people that are complaining can barely run up the stairs” - Conor McGregor
The language is typical McGregor and is part of his brand, brutally honest, to the point, always spoken with a smile, an approach which makes him one of the most compelling figures in the Irish sporting landscape at the moment.
Having burst onto the scene with a stunning victory over Marcus Brimage in Stockholm in April 2013, McGregor’s career was on hold for 11 months when he suffered a serious knee injury while beating Max Holloway in August last year.
The Brandao showdown was the comeback and McGregor says he always felt destined to bring something special to his home crowd.
“I don’t feel pressure,” said the 26-year-old.
“I knew I was going to be the person to do it. I knew I was going to be the man to bring it to the public eye, I knew I was going to bring the UFC back. This is exactly what I predicted and it’s coming true so I relish it.
“We love a fight, the Irish. There was nearly a story to it. From the first fight of the night, Paddy Holohan, his first fight, getting that finish, escaping a really tight submission and then getting his own choke finish. And then Cathal, the back and forth finish. Everyone on that card done themselves justice.
“The whole story was just phenomenal. And then just the crowd – the crowd made the night. The whole combat world, the whole fighting world knows about the Irish crowd now and we’ve guaranteed ourselves a big, big show every single year with that.
“That was something that you had to be there to experience. That was a moment in history right there.”
Hello haters, it's me again. pic.twitter.com/9q1HPaSk10— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 7, 2014
The Dubliner is now in training for his next fight – a showdown in glamorous Las Vegas with Dustin Poirier from Los Angeles (with a 16-3-0 record) on 27 September.
He admits the two weeks before the fight are emotional as he pushes his body to the limit to make the 65kg weight and prime himself for battle.
As usual, McGregor, who has a 15-2-0 record, has a vision of what will happen and is not shy about detailing how he feels the fight will unfold.
“He’s an all-rounder, he’s okay everywhere. I think come out looking to get the fight to the mat but I believe the bell will ring, he’ll come out, we’ll exchange, he’ll hit one leg, I’ll hurt him and then he’ll probably suffer a takedown,” he says.
“I’ll crack him a couple of more and I’ll put him away, early to midway in the first round.
“He’s talking all this sh*t online and all that but then when the contract is signed, then it’s set in stone, then we come face-to-face, man-to-man and it’s a different story altogether.
“He was timid, we came head-to-head, he backed away, he didn’t want anything go to do with it. They think that they want it and when they get it it’s a big storm.
“Not only is it a media storm, it’s a fan storm. It’s just a whole load of pressure and I don’t think they’re used to it.
“I don’t think they’ve ever felt something like that before and then, at the end of all that stress, they’ve got to come in and face me. I’m sure it’s not a nice feeling.
“They are all hungry for it. Different opponents create different emotions, different feelings and different reactions. I think he’s hungry, I think he has heart.
“I think he comes to fight but when it’s against me I feel it’s different, I don’t feel he has that, I feel his heart is breaking, his mind is breaking. September 27, I’ll go in and put that final nail in the coffin.”