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Michael Conlan delighted to welcome UFC star Conor McGregor on board

By David Kelly

Michael Conlan intends to hit the ground running when he kicks off his professional career at Madison Square Garden on March 17.

Conlan enjoyed his first taste of the buzz around his debut when attending the New York press conference yesterday to confirm his fight with American Tim Ibarra, a man who lost to the son of the Belfast fighter's coach - Manny Robles jnr.

Conlan has settled into his new life in Los Angeles, where he works with coach Robles, and the 25-year-old super-bantamweight is expecting to put on a show for the fans at the Garden.

More: Conor McGregor bemoans lack of UFC competition while brandishing wad of cash in Northern Ireland nightclub

A large section of those in the arena will be travelling from home, which just adds to the World amateur champion's excitement as he counts down to the next chapter in his boxing career, which will be screened on BT Sport.

"I've had a thousand people contact me about going to the fight which is incredible but I'm not getting carried away believing I have a massive fan base when I haven't even boxed - it's also a great excuse to go to New York for St Paddy's weekend," said Conlan, who will walk to the ring flanked by Irish UFC star Conor McGregor.

"It's a lot of expense coming out here to watch me and I know I'll not get this kind of support all the time so it will be a very special night.

"Conor and I will raise the roof. He is the hype machine. Everything he touches at the minute seems to be turning to gold. The fact that he's on board and willing to come along and support me just shows I've earned a bit of respect in the fight world. But to have him there with me, two Irishmen... it just brings the whole thing to a new level.

"What I have planned for my debut is going to be mental. The ring entrance, everything - I have the whole thing planned. I even have my kit picked already.

"I'm going to make a show, and make entertainment for boxing again."

Conlan, who has it inked in his contract with top American promoter Bob Arum's organisation Top Rank that he must fight on Irish soil once a year, accepts that his amateur career is well behind him and he will have to establish himself as the hot prospect his US backers believe he is.

"I'm not the golden boy anymore. I have to prove myself again, a fresh start. I haven't had that feeling since I came on to the Irish team in 2011. It's a great feeling. It'll probably change fairly rapidly, because I know how good I'm going to be," he said.

"I feel honoured and privileged to make my debut in the mecca of boxing that is Madison Square Garden, fighting in the world's most famous arena in my professional debut on St Patrick's Day. It is something I never dreamed would be possible."

Conlan is being managed by former World title challenger Matthew Macklin.

"Knowing the potential Mick has, his exceptional ability and charismatic personality, starting his career off at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick's Day is the fairytale beginning to what I believe is going to be one helluva journey," Macklin said.

Belfast Telegraph

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