McGregor vs Mayweather: The UFC star's amateur football past and Cristiano Ronaldo admiration

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The mixed martial artist takes to the ring for this year's mega-fight on Saturday, but before he was in UFC he shone at football

Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather takes place on August 26, 2017. The biggest fight in history.

On Saturday night, Conor McGregor will be stepping out of his mixed martial arts comfort zone and taking on five-division boxing world champion Floyd Mayweather. Having conquered the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the Irishman is ready to take on his biggest challenge yet.

A boxing contest will not be a major stretch from his usual UFC fights, but McGregor has already proved himself adept at multiple sports.


WHAT TEAMS DID CONOR MCGREGOR PLAY FOR?


In 2015, fight fans were given a glimpse of the 28-year-old's abilities ahead of his bout against Chad Mendes at UFC 189. In an episode of the promotion's 'Embedded' video blog series, McGregor can be seen skilfully juggling a football before blasting it away with a thumping roundhouse kick.

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that, long before he was UFC Lightweight Champion or Featherweight Champion, McGregor an adept amateur footballer.

In his native Dublin, he lined out in both the United Churches League and Leinster Football League with Slievenamon United and Yellowstone Celtic, and was a self-proclaimed 'goal machine'.

His former manager at Slievenamon, Robbie Beakhurst recalls how the wiry striker was potent in front of goal and easily could have progressed up the ranks in the football world if his fighting career had not taken priority.

“He played for me with a club called Slievenamon United when we played in the UCFL. He was a striker and was our top scorer every year," Beakhurst told The JSP. 

"I took over Yellowstone Celtic and took him with me and again he was scoring for fun on a weekly basis.

“He used to just say to the rest of team ‘just give me the ball and I’ll do the rest’ – he was a smashing player but we had a decent team. As he got more involved in the MMA he couldn’t make matches and we allowed him to skip training.”

Conor McGregor Yellowstone Celtic

David Glennon had also managed McGregor during his spell at Yellowstone, but saw him disappear once he started to become more involved in MMA.

"He was always a bit more interested in MMA, but he would have certainly been one of the fittest on the team," Glennon told the Herald.

"I think he played for a year, maybe two, just before we broke up the Saturday side. The first year he was generally down with us all year, but in the second, you'd be lucky to get him in once a week, because he got more into the MMA.

"We told the players the situation, but that we still wanted to play him, and they all took it well, because I think they knew Conor was one of the better players on the team,"

Conor McGregor Yellowstone Celtic

At amateur level, McGregor lined out with midfielder Alan Power, who recently joined Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock from Lincoln City on a two-year deal.

The former Ireland Under-21 international played over 250 league games for the Imps, having previously been on the books of Nottingham Forest and Hartlepool United. He considers how the pair followed different paths, but both ended up with successful careers.

“We used to knock around in the same circle of friends back home when we were growing up," Power told the Telegraph in February. "He played Sunday League football where I did, actually he wasn’t a bad footballer, but he chose a different path.

“He made the right decision, he’s a better fighter than a footballer, but who knows, I might have been the same!"


WHO DOES CONOR MCGREGOR SUPPORT?


Conor McGregor UFC

Despite being a star on the football pitch, McGregor says that he was never a proper fan of the game. We know that he doesn't support Chelsea and that he fell into supporting Manchester United, but only because his family had been fans of the Old Trafford club.

McGregor also finds it strange that Irish people are so passionate about Premier League teams despite not living in the same country as their idols and ignoring the League of Ireland on their doorstep.

"I was big into football as a kid, but more as a player than a watcher," he told the Irish Independent

"I suppose if you pushed me I would say Manchester United, but that’s only because it gets passed down from generation to generation.

"I think just about everyone in Ireland is either a Liverpool or United fan. But some people go a little weird, referring to the team they support as “we”. To me that’s a little crazy. I admire their athleticism and their dedication."

Interestingly, despite indicating support for Man United, McGregor also seems to have a soft spot for Liverpool. In a video doing the rounds on social media, the Dubliner says: "I'm a Red... f**k Everton, yeah!"

While that appears to an unequivocal backing of the Anfield club, it could also be that the fighter was clumsy in his use of nicknames and perhaps meant that he was a Red (Devil). We will have to let him clear that one up.


CONOR MCGREGOR AND CRISTIANO RONALDO


Should McGregor overcome Mayweather in the August bout, he will have conquered another discipline. Could a return to football be on the cards after that? It would certainly be no surprise to hear the 28-year-old making yet another outlandish plan for world domination.

And he is already rubbing shoulders with the best in the business, having been paid a visit by Real Madrid's four-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of his UFC 202 fight against Nate Diaz last July.

 

that bag different.

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Since then, the pair have stayed in touch and even socialised together, with McGregor cheekily inviting himself along with Ronaldo to the birthday party of pop icon Jennifer Lopez.

The Irish fighter also jokingly warned the Portuguese icon that he is determined to rival him on the Forbes Rich List, but beneath the badinage, McGregor is a huge admirer.

"Ronaldo is a phenomenal athlete," he admits. "His speed, his takeoff from a standing start and his ability to operate at high speeds are impressive."

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