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The next Conor McGregor? Arsenal youth star Nelson airs MMA ambition

7:45 PM MYT 19/10/2017
Conor McGregor Reiss Nelson Arsenal
The teenage forward is starting to make a name for himself with the Gunners, but is already piecing together plans for life after football

Reiss Nelson is hoping to have a long career at Arsenal ahead of him, but is already planning to follow Conor McGregor into the world of MMA.

The 17-year-old has forced his way into the first-team fold at Emirates Stadium this season, making his senior bow in Carabao Cup and Europa League competition.

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There are high hopes for him in north London, with Arsene Wenger clearly a fan of what the promising forward can offer.

Nelson, though, is also starting to piece together long-term plans for the future, with the youngster admitting that he can see himself swapping the football field for a fighting cage.

He told the Arsenal Magazine on his love of mixed martial arts and McGregor, who recently switched sports himself to face Floyd Mayweather in the boxing ring: “I watched the McGregor fight.

“And for the first couple of rounds I felt he was doing really well and he had Mayweather on the back foot, so I was confident that it would be a good fight and he might win, but then as the rounds went on he got pretty tired. 

“I knew that from his previous UFC fights that he may tire out, like he did against Nate Diaz, and that’s what happened. Mayweather had his way in the last couple of rounds.

“I was backing McGregor all the way. I’m a really big UFC fan. I think his aura and his personality are really great. I like to watch a lot of his documentaries and his vlog, and I think he’s just come up from nothing really. He was a plumber before he became a fighter, he’s worked really hard and his story is great.

“In some ways, I look up to him as a sportsman. His work rate and the effort he puts in is immense.

“I like Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone a lot too. He’s a very good fighter, very versatile and uses a lot of kicks in his style. I really like the flying knees and all of that, but no one really does that sort of thing anymore, people tend to grapple much more, but I love that style.

“MMA is something that I may want to get into after football. I spent some time over the summer doing a lot of kickboxing and I just felt that it was something I enjoyed doing a lot.”

For now, Nelson is fully focused on his football, with the talented teenager telling Goal in an exclusive interview that the challenge for him is to fulfil his potential and justify early comparisons to some of the biggest names in his chosen field.

He said in the wake of recent comments from Martin Keown likening him to Brazilian superstar Neymar: "That is a very big stretch to say something like that.

"Neymar is world-class and if I can get anything close to him in near future, I'd be delighted.

"I'm still young and anything can happen.”