Good swivel is pre-requisite to bringing off a good kick, in MMA as well as in Irish Dancing.
Both Conor McGregor and Rory McIlroy have spoken at length this week about the debt their respective sporting careers owe to the formative years they spent in their home country as keen students of Irish Dancing.
Video footage released this week ahead of Sunday’s UFC card in Boston shows rising MMA star McGregor, 26, recently undergoing a series of rigorous speed, strength and balance tests at the Center for Sport Performance at California State University.
“He’s not just elite. He’s elite-elite, if you get my meaning”, enthused CSU’s Professor of Kinesiology, Andy Galpin.
McGregor scored high in several areas, posting all-time record scores at the Center for balance and hip mobility. But in a subsequent interview, the Crumlin man was quick to point to a childhood and puberty spent competing countrywide at Irish Dancing ‘Feiseanna’.
“I grew up watching my heroes on the television, and you’d better believe Michael Flatley was as big an idol for me as Steve Collins was”, claimed McGregor.
“While friends of mine were drawing inspiration from stuff like Enter the Dragon, Rocky 5, or Lethal Weapon 4, I was at home pausing and rewinding scenes from Riverdance, Lord of the Dance and, to a lesser extent, Rhythm of the Dance”, he said.
Speaking at the Center, Professor Galpin elaborated on the potentially beneficial significance of an Irish Dancing background for a mixed martial artist.
He argued that given how the side-step is famously the basis for all traditional Irish dance styles, it was no shock that McGregor’s fluidity of lateral movement in the cage is on a par with that of any of the world’s best professional fighters, regardless of discipline.
“You’d imagine he probably also found himself honing his reflexes as the object of constant physical attacks from his schoolmates. I don’t think Irish Dancing is quite as popular in day-to-day Irish life as many people would have you believe.”
“But look who’s laughing now, I guess”, he continued.
Measuring angular velocity through the hips, for example, results showed that McGregor was capable of moving an astonishing and unprecedented 800 degrees per second.
“Yeah, I was expecting numbers roughly along those lines”, maintained the current number 5 ranked UFC featherweight.
“Tell you what. You try be leading male in an hour-long eight-hand reel or a high powered ‘Siege of Ennis’ with everyone gunning for top spot, and let me know how you get on.”
Colette Cooke out in Howth
“A lot of these guys talk about Capoeira”, he went on. “But take it from me, Irish Dancing is the original and pre-eminent form of unarmed-combat-disguised-as-dancing.”
“With his snappy head kicks and hands down, chin-out style, it wouldn’t surprise me, say, to learn that Anderson Silva had taken some private classes with Colette Cooke out in Howth”, he postulated.
“The Irish are a nation of dancers, and the McGregors are a family of dancers. And when one of us goes to dance, we all go to dance.”
In a curious footnote, however, staff at California State casually mentioned to reporters that the Performance Center’s previous record for angular hip velocity of 720 degrees had actually been set by McGregor’s compatriot, the Irish pro-golfer Rory McIlroy.
And that try as they might, scientists there had been unable to establish any commonly established areas of athletic giftedness for the two sports.
But now a public announcement from the 2014 Open winner on the subject clearly indicates that this seemingly odd piece of sporting trivia was more than just a bizarre coincidence.
In the statement, which he delivered at an impromptu press conference between rounds at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship yesterday, McIlroy revealed that he too owes much of his golfing success to an illustrious background in competitive jigging, reeling and Munster-style stepping.
“Me and Conor go way back, he was always a solid man to have holding up the other side of a fast-paced ‘Humours of Bandon’. And even though head to head there was always a wee bit of north-south rivalry, I think it’s safe to say we’re both wildly happy for each other at how things have gone on our different paths, especially now that neither of us dances in competition any longer.”
“But you can tell ‘Notorious’ I’ll be back into Andy next week to try and crack that 800 score”, he smiled.
Asked to comment on McIlroy’s words, McGregor seemed initially confused, but then admitted he and the four-time Major champion had in fact been acquainted on the Irish Céilí and Feis circuit of the late ’90s and early ’00s.
“Rory. Yeah. You’ll have to excuse me. I don’t want to talk about that man. This interview is over”, he said.
GO RAIBH MAITH!