‘Las Vegas is Ireland now’: Conor McGregor fans invade the Strip

The Las Vegas Strip has become a blur of emerald jerseys, beer and songs ahead of the fight, as Irish fans hope for a historic upset against Floyd Mayweather

If Conor McGregor comes up short against Floyd Mayweather in their junior middleweight fight on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena, it wont be for lack of support.

Thousands of Irish fans have descended on the Las Vegas strip to support their countryman as he looks to spring an upset that would surely rate among the greatest in the history of the prize ring.

Their presence can be crudely quantified by the prices at the sports books around town, which have shortened over the course of the week to roughly 3-1, exceedingly charitable odds for a novice boxer making his professional debut against a five-division champion who is unbeaten in 49 paying fights.

But its been even more palpable on the strip, which has become a blur of emerald soccer, rugby union and Gaelic football jerseys. They were carousing from dawn on Friday in the casinos and at the swanky outdoor watering holes beneath a cloudless sky on the way to the T-Mobile Arena, double-fisting beers and frozen drinks, singing songs and brimming with confidence as bright as the August sun.

Among them were Dillon Barnes, Bob Neville and Gibo MacDermott, who were sucking down beers outside the T-Mobile Arena several hours before Fridays weigh-in, wearing matching kelly-green suits festooned with shamrocks. Neville even remembered to wear a dress shirt.

Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham)

It’s a McGregor crowd outside the arena ahead of today’s weigh-ins. Most of these guys have been going since 7 a.m. pic.twitter.com/usYTERA2Ia

August 25, 2017

All three came over from the Dublin suburb of Crumlin that produced McGregor and spoke with pride of how they knew the two-division UFC champion from the early days. MacDermott, 35, said he used to work as a plumber with McGregor, while Barnes and Neville, both in their late 20s, said they played on the same soccer team with him.

I was up front, scoring goals: boom, boom, boom! Neville recalled in animated detail. Conor was just defending, knocking people out.

Like many McGregor supporters who traveled from abroad, the trio were struggling to score tickets for the fight, which were still hovering around $1,300 apiece on the secondary market on Saturday morning.

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Darren and Grinne OMahony had no such problem. The husband and wife from Limerick, who arrived on Thursday for a four-night stay at the Golden Nugget downtown, jumped on a pair of seats immediately when they went on sale.

The tickets were costly, Grinne said with a cheerful grin. Well probably have to starve for a couple of months but it was worth it.

Were here for Conor because we know hes going to do it and were here to celebrate afterwards. I couldnt get off work but I told them I have to get it off, I have to come here to support him.

Darren was in the stands at Neptune Stadium in Cork seven years ago when McGregor was submitted by Joe Duffy in one of his first MMA bouts. That setback feels like a far-off memory, he said, and he has no doubt that McGregor will shock the pundits on Saturday night.

We wouldnt be here otherwise, he said.

Their confidence was matched by Jennifer Fitzpatrick, a 22-year-old from Dublin temporarily in San Diego on a student visa.

McGregor, 100%, said Fitzpatrick, clad in an orange sports bra and Irish flag. I think it will go on for a while, but eventually hell get to him.

Conor
Conor McGregor is from the Dublin suburb of Crumlin. Photograph: ddp USA/REX/Shutterstock

Eoin Ryan, 21, who arrived Saturday from Clonakilty in Cork with four of his friends, was a bit more tempered in his optimism.

My head says Mayweather, my heart says McGregor, he said between pulls from a Four Loko tall boy. If [Conor] hits him with one, he might finish him. Im just here for a good time.

Ryans group only had tickets for the weigh-in, which were distributed for free to the public but being hawked by scalpers outside for $50 to $75.

Were here on vacation and we happened to be here for the fight by chance, Ryan said. Just soaking in the atmosphere and the sun, having a good time.

Mayweather was born in the midwest but for nearly all his adult life his home has been Las Vegas, the desert town of 600,000 souls whose excess and chaos and seductive mythology hes come to embody. His last 14 fights have taken place here, even if the crowd support has seldom reflected a hometown advantage due to the villainous persona he willingly embraces.

The atmosphere for Saturdays fight will be no exception if Fridays weigh-in was any indication. The well-lubricated masses screamed frantically for McGregor the moment he emerged from the back of the arena and were sent into hysterics when the Irishman screamed in Mayweathers face during the tradition staredown.

Theres a saying: youll never beat the Irish, McGregor said afterward over the arenas PA system. You cant beat us. We roll in and we take over wherever we want.

Las Vegas is Ireland now.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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