LAS VEGAS – As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and the party of parties refused to die, the famed Las Vegas Strip was green and white and orange and wonderful.
The hues of the Irish flag were the backdrop for a celebration that spanned thousands of times longer than the event which caused it, namely Conor McGregor’s 13-second demolition of Jose Aldo in the main event of UFC 194.
This is a city that relishes its naughty charms and is smart enough to keep its secrets, but it may never have witnessed anything quite like the collective joy sparked by McGregor’s stunning capture of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s featherweight belt and the accompanying confirmation that he is the biggest star in mixed martial arts.
While the 27-year-old Dublin man’s compatriots need little excuse to enjoy themselves with booze and charm at any time, they know how to cherish victory better than anyone.
Across the street from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where McGregor backed up months of boastfully predicting an early stoppage with a result that made history as the quickest finish to a UFC title bout, the New York New York hotel and casino was filled with the songs and exuberance of those with an address or roots in the Emerald Isle.
“All week I have been watching these videos on the Internet of the Irish fans,” McGregor said. “They are making this sport what it is. The whole eyes of the world are on my country, and I am very proud of that.”
McGregor, a former apprentice plumber who received social welfare checks just a few years back, now has the keys to the UFC kingdom and is on course to make more money than anyone who has ever stepped into the octagon.
His fast mouth and even swifter fists earned him a rare contract that includes compensation based on the number of pay per views bought, meaning his check for Saturday’s snippet of work will likely top $10 million.
That is a mere fraction of what is to follow as a result of a brutal left to the side of Aldo’s face that sent the Brazilian tumbling to the canvas and defeat moments later. By dispatching Aldo, a featherweight legend who was the UFC’s top pound-for-pound fighter heading into the event, McGregor maintained the momentum that has rapidly transformed him into MMA’s biggest draw card.