It appears that the huge success Conor McGregor has had in the UFC is starting to dwindle. In his prime McGregor tore through the UFC featherweight division. He knocked out one of the all-time greats in Jose Aldo. He took part in one of the biggest rivalries in UFC history with Nate Diaz. He captured the UFC lightweight strap as well.
McGregor's fall from grace in the UFC
Unfortunately, McGregor is now on a two-fight losing streak, with only one win since 2017. Whilst the Irishman does retain a loyal fanbase, many have been put off the former double champ on account of his recent social media activity, as well as comments made in the build-up to his recent fight with Dustin Poirier.
So there are some MMA fans who are now looking for a fighter to fill the space McGregor once occupied as a clinical up-and-comer who can sell a fight like no other. Thankfully, there is currently a rise in talent in the Irish MMA scene. That's partly due to European regional organization Cage Warriors producing a number of prospects from the Emerald Isles.
In the following list, we break down five Irish fighters who could potentially emulate the huge success Conor McGregor had in the UFC. These fighters do not need to be currently signed to the UFC. However, we are not focusing on Northern Irish fighters, so you may see the likes of Joe McColgan, Leah McCourt and Rhys McKee featured on another list yet to come.
#5. Taka Mhandu - EFC bantamweight
Taka Mhandu is likely the biggest unknown on this list. That's on account of him not having made his professional debut yet. However, Mhandu has been tearing it up on the amateur scene.
He currently holds a 6-0 amateur record, with four of his wins ending in a KO stoppage. Mhandu is set to make his pro debut at EFC 89. He'll take on the 4-3 Asiashu Tshitamba.
Mhandu trains out of Irish MMA gym Team KF, which has become one of the top gyms for producing European talent as of late. Time will tell if Mhandu lives up to the lofty expectations surrounding him. But so far, everything points to 'The Cat' being one of Ireland's next big stars in MMA.
#4. James Gallagher - Bellator bantamweight
There was a considerable period of time when James Gallagher was considered by many to be on a fast track to the UFC. The Irish bantamweight was even being dubbed 'the new Conor McGregor.'
'The Strabanimal' trains out of the same gym as McGregor and can also sell a fight off his trash talk alone. Gallagher currently competes for Bellator MMA and holds a pro-MMA record of 11-1.
Unfortunately, Gallagher lost some of the hype surrounding him after coming up short against Ricky Bandejas. Gallagher promoted the fight in the typical McGregor style. He got in Bandejas' face during the weigh-ins, as well as ruthlessly trash-talking him in the pre-fight exchanges..
However, when the fight came around, Bandejas knocked Gallagher out in the first round. But since then, 'The Strabanimal' has bounced back with three consecutive wins.
It is not often that the UFC signs fighters from Bellator. But should Gallagher defeat his upcoming opponent Patchy Mix in impressive fashion, he may well draw the eyes of Dana White, Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard.
Gallagher certainly has the skills to be competitive in the UFC, and there has never been a better time than now to inject some new Irish talent into the organization.
#3. Dean Barry - UFC welterweight
Dean Barry is an Irish kickboxer turned mixed martial artist who has already signed for the UFC. Unfortunately, visa issues and the pandemic have kept him from making his debut. He has had two fights against Mike Jackson fall through so far but is hoping to make his promotional debut in the coming months.
Barry currently holds an MMA record of 3-1. All three of his wins have come by way of first-round knockouts, giving just some indication of how lethal he is in the striking department. His nickname, 'The Sniper,' is very fitting, and with luck, UFC fans will see him taking shots at the opposition in the near future.
#2. Paul Hughes - Cage Warriors featherweight
Cage Warriors has consistently developed talented European fighters who have gone on to do great things in the UFC. One of the next big prospects is Irish featherweight Paul Hughes.
Hughes has a 7-1 record with his only loss coming about by way of a close split decision against current Cage Warriors featherweight champion Jordan Vucenic. A rematch with Vucenic may be on the cards in the near future for Hughes. It was recently announced that he will compete for the Cage Warriors featherweight interim title at the upcoming trilogy event.
Hughes will face off against Morgan Charriere, who is another massive European prospect. Should Hughes put in an impressive display against Charriere, that alone may well be enough to see him signed for the UFC.
#1. Ian Garry - UFC welterweight
'The Future' has arrived, in the UFC that is. There has not been this much excitement surrounding an Irish fighter since the days of McGregor himself. Ian Garry won the Cage Warriors welterweight title earlier this year, defeating Jack Grant in dominant fashion.
Shortly after, Garry signed a contract with the UFC. He now has his opponent booked as well, with the UFC recently announcing that he will be facing off against Jordan WIlliams at UFC 268.
The fact that the UFC are putting Garry on such a big card for his debut speaks volumes about how much stock they are putting into the young Irishman. Ahead of his debut fight, Garry has announced he will be training at Sanford MMA, where he will hone his already lethal skillset to an even finer point.