Irish footballers commiserate with Conor McGregor after UFC 196 loss

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The mixed martial artist takes to the ring for this year's mega-fight on Saturday, but before he was in UFC he shone at football
The mixed martial artist takes to the ring for this year's mega-fight on Saturday, but before he was in UFC he shone at football

Conor McGregor's unbeaten run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship came to an abrupt end at UFC 196 when he was defeated by Nate Diaz.

Ahead of the fight Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane was among those to back the Irish mixed martial artist and the Football Association of Ireland also wished the 27-year-old luck.

The loss shocked many spectators, including plenty of McGregor's compatriots within Irish football.

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Hull City midfielder and Republic of Ireland international David Meyler could not believe his eyes as Diaz's hand was raised as victor instead of McGregor's. He wrote on Twitter: "I don't know if I'm awake or asleep. Was that a dream? Gutted for McGregor. He'll be back."

The 2014 Puskas Award runner-up and Ireland women international Stephanie Roche said that she was embarrassed to see people indulging in Schadenfreude by revelling in the Dubliner's defeat. "Roll out the begrudgers," Roche wrote. "Embarrassed to see some of the tweets. What he's done so far has been unbelievabal. He'll be back!!"

Ireland international Greg Cunningham was impressed by McGregor's "character and class in defeat and said that he has "so much respect" for the Crumlin native.

Cork City striker Karl Sheppard painted a picture for his followers to illustrate the difficulty in moving up weight to fight Diaz and insisted that McGregor's status as an "Irish legend" remains undiminished. "Go to the gym, pick up 12kg and fight with it, this is what McGregor tried to do," Sheppard wrote on Twitter. "Still an Irish legend."

The 27-year-old Dublin native, who is the promotion's reigning featherweight champion, moved up two weight classes in order to fight Diaz after an injury ruled out his initial opponent Rafael Dos Anjos, but he was submitted in the second round.

McGregor described the loss as "a bitter pill to swallow" but vowed to learn from the experience and come back stronger.

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