Destined to fight – What McGregor vs Parke would mean to Irish MMA

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With both their careers and national successes being materialised under the banner of promotions like Cage Contender and Immortal Fighting Championships, it is nothing new for the Irish MMA scene to hear about the possibility of Norman Parke and Conor McGregor facing off against each other.

After his initial start in 2008, McGregor was absent from the scene for nearly two years, and just eight months after Parke saw off one of his SBGi teammates, Myles Price, the Dubliner announced his return to the sport with a first round win via technical knockout against Connor Dillon in December 2010.

Not only were they both young, enthusiastic prospects, the two fighters seemed to jump between the featherweight and lightweight divisions and, interestingly, they both own losses to Joseph Duffy, one of the first Irish MMA stars who has now turned to boxing, which in both cases seemed to have a lit a fire under their aspirations in the sport.

It’s fair to say, well before the UFC, well before the mass media attention and well before most of the world let these two men into their consciousness – this is something that has always been on the cards, if only through a similar ascent on a national basis.

The idea took a shot in the arm again when McGregor was interviewed by Ariel Helwani after he launched himself into the vernacular of fight fans world wide with a stunning knockout over Marcus Brimage on Saturday April 6, in Stockholm, Sweden.

“The Notorious” brand had first been fed to an international audience in the build up to the Brimage bout on Helwani’s “The MMA Hour”

“Stay ready so I don’t have to get ready”, his “fucking delicious” blueberries, his declaration as “the two weight world champ”, he was something new that American MMA audiences hadn’t quite seen before.

The truth is McGregor has always been like that. Whether interviewing him beside a dumpster or with two world titles over his shoulders – that’s just him, that’s why people love him and that’s why people have become attached to him so quickly.

Something that has been talked about in the past is the unique angles that McGregor strikes from and since his immergence on the international scene, we know that he can strike equally as hard with his sharp tongue.

“I suppose Norman Parke is a 155er,” said McGregor when Helwani asked him about possible future opponents. “He is the other Irishman, but he’s from Northern Ireland and he carries another (flag), well, it’s all a history thing and I don’t give a shit, but that could be a good fight.

“It would be a great contest for the European scene. You know, me and Norman kind of came up together on the same circuit, even since before the UFC we’ve been mentioned in the same bracket.”

McGregor went on to say he would finish the Antrim man in “half a minute”, but until Monday, it was unknown as to how Parke felt about his name being dropped into the conversation.

“People bring religion into this sport and I don’t think that’s a good idea. My friends got caught up in that bollocks when we were younger and where are they now? They’re working nine to five jobs doing fuck all,” he said.

“We grew up in the same fight circuit as he said, we were meant to fight a few times. We were beating everybody on the local scene and people definitely wanted to see that.”

Parke also said something very important – “some people would like to see that fight for the wrong reason.”

There is no doubt with the religious feuds that have separated the island for hundreds of years, of course some people would try to use the fight as a propaganda or sectarian fodder, but one thing that hasn’t been highlighted is the unity between North and South when it comes to MMA.

People travel the length and breadth of Ireland to compete in MMA leagues, jiu jitsu tournaments and of course, professional MMA bouts. There is alcohol consumed at these events, testosterone is on high but rarely will you hear of discrimination or attacks being launched at people from the wrong side of the border.

In Ireland, the sport has transcended the boundaries and the politics in many ways, and although Parke was understandably defensive after hearing McGregor reference the different flags, he must remember the cunning nature of the Crumlin man when it comes to putting arses in seats.

In McGregor’s words, the two men “don’t give a shit” about any type of religious feud, but there is no doubt that the Countdownproducers are already licking their lips at the idea of such a bout and it could be one that makes both McGregor and Parke a lot of money down the line.

I say down the line because it is not in the interest of the Irish MMA community to see two of their greatest stars go toe to toe yet. Parke is coming straight off his TUF Smashes success and he’s set for a bout with Kazuki Tokudome now at UFC 162, where he can show, once again, why his star is steadily on the rise.

McGregor is back in action when the UFC make their Fox Sports 1 debut, and if he banks another earth shattering knockout, he will surely become the face of “the Fighting Irish” and one of the countries biggest sports stars, if he hasn’t already.

Ideally both of these fantastic athletes will continue their climb to the top and then, when the time is right, they can face off and give Ireland a fantastic night of celebration rather than one where violence outside of the cage dominates the headlines.

Such altercations can always be a possibility when such a controversial topic is mentioned in the same breath a sporting encounter, but one things for sure, after years of people from the Republic heading up North for competition and vice versa, we, the Irish MMA community, know how to act in such situations and respect comes first, before any religious and political agenda.

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.