The entire country of Ireland is expecting Conor McGregor to crush Diego Brandao on Saturday. It really won’t be that easy.
It takes a certain kind of personality to fly to Ireland and fight a national hero in the nation’s capital in front of thousands of screaming fans. Brandao has it. The Brazilian doesn’t scare easily. He is not intimidated. You think the boos are going to bother someone who told his last opponent that he was going to stab him in the neck?
Brandao doesn’t have any you-know-whats to give. And that’s why he’s an extremely, extremely dangerous opponent for McGregor in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Dublin.
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"Let him talk," Brandao said. "Let him promote. I’m going to promote with my hands. I’m just going to go down there and fight. He’s never fought anyone like me before."
McGregor (left) and Brandao engage in a staredown this week.
That’s another thing. McGregor (14-2) has just two UFC fights and neither one was against someone as experienced as Brandao. McGregor’s original opponent was Cole Miller, who, on paper, is a more technical, versatile fighter than Brandao. Miller is a whiz on the ground, where we’ve never really seen McGregor work in the UFC.
On paper, Miller made for a tougher fight. But this won’t take place on paper. It’ll take place inside a sold out arena with thousands of Irish fans ready to explode with every punch, kick and takedown. Not that the moment would have folded Miller. It’s just that Brandao might not even realize the gravity of the situation. He’s a different kind of guy.
"I expect a lot of [boos]," Brandao said. "I hope it happens, because this is makes me very excited. It’s not bad like you guys think."
And lest we not forget that McGregor is coming off surgery to repair a torn ACL and he has not fought since last August. It might take him a few minutes to get adjusted to being back in the Octagon and Brandao comes full steam ahead from the start. McGregor is a skilled counter-puncher, but will his timing be there from the jump? It’ll be very interesting to find out.
I expect a lot of [boos]. I hope it happens, because this is makes me very excited. It’s not bad like you guys think.
In a meandering interview with FOX Sports this week, Brandao no-sold McGregor’s trash talk, but was inexplicably concerned that McGregor was going to kiss him during the weigh-ins. That didn’t happen — and good thing.
"I don’t kiss men," Brandao said. … "If he crosses the line, he’s going to get a big ass front kick in the stomach. If he’s nice, I’ll be nice."
The weigh-in staredown Friday was pretty intense. Brandao looked stoic. McGregor was the one jumping around and trying to get into Brandao’s head. It likely didn’t work. Brandao doesn’t think fighting at the O2 on Saturday night is a thing. He compared it to fighting in Sweden against Pablo Garza, even though Garza is not Swedish.
The situation is unlikely to get to Brandao, because he doesn’t seem to think any of this is a big deal. The Ultimate Fighter alum got into a car accident two weeks before his loss to Poirier in December and he’s just happy to be coming into this fight healthy.
Before that, he had won three straight bouts and he also has a win over lightweight contender Dennis Bermudez. McGregor has no such experiences in the UFC. The Irishman might be nearly a 5-to-1 favorite, but Brandao is no easy mark.
A loss for McGregor would be absolutely stunning to the Irish fans. It would not be for Brandao.
"I’m going to win on Saturday night," Brandao said. "After I win, I’m going to invite Conor to have some beer with me."