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‘Fake Conor McGregor’ carrying Irish flag in star’s absence at UFC 303

Ian Machado Garry doesn’t flinch when informed his UFC 303 opponent, Michael “Venom” Page, has referred to him as the “Fake Conor McGregor.”

The unbeaten welterweight sees it as almost a badge of honor.

“Anyone saying I am trying to be like Conor McGregor or I am trying to do something to be like him, I have to take it as a compliment,” said Garry, a Dublin native like McGregor. “He’s the greatest star our sport has ever seen, so if you’re comparing me to him, it means I’m doing something right.”

Yet Garry, who is nine years younger at 26 and was inspired to pick up martial arts by McGregor’s success, insists he’s paving his own way.

He compares his journey to that of Kobe Bryant, who many people believed was trying to be just like Michael Jordan early in his career before eventually creating a legacy of his own.

“I’m not trying to be like Conor in any way, shape or form. Have I been inspired by him? Absolutely,” Garry said. “I’m born and bred from Dublin just like him. He talks the talk and walks the walk and backs it up. I am the exact same.

“Conor has done everything he has said he would do in his career, and I have yet to prove what I need to. That’s my job now. My job is to continue what I’m doing on my journey to destiny. It’s my job to do it my way, and at the end of it, people are just going to say this kid was special and did it his own way.”

So far, so good in the cage, even though he has seemingly created as many haters as fans with his polarizing personality.

Page not impressed

Garry is 14-0 as a pro, including seven wins since joining the UFC. He has a chance to make a major statement as he kicks off the pay-per-view portion of Saturday’s card at T-Mobile Arena against Page (22-2), who makes his second UFC appearance after spending years racking up highlight-reel knockouts in Bellator.

Page, a 37-year-old London native, gave a simple assessment of Garry as a fighter.

“From what I see, he’s a competent striker who’s got good distance control, but nothing new,” Page said. “He’s a very confident young man who has just made one bad decision in accepting the fight with me.”

As for the personality, Page’s opinion is a bit more harsh.

“Obviously you can see how much he’s been inspired by Conor McGregor, and I get it. Many fighters even away from Ireland have been massively inspired by Conor, and I understand the inspiration,” Page said. “But trying to do exactly what he does is what I call fake.

“Your personality may not be exactly that, which is why you’re not resonating with people the same. Whereas with Conor, people love him. He has a massive fan base. People hate (Garry), and I think it’s because people can feel when something is not authentic. It’s not real with him, that’s why he’s fake Conor McGregor.”

‘The Irish will be here’

It’s not stopping Garry from trying to make his own name. He asked for a spot on this card because McGregor was expected to be the headliner and was disappointed when McGregor had to withdraw due to injury.

Now Garry is left to carry the Irish flag for fans making the trip across the pond to Las Vegas. Garry insists they will not cancel their plans just because McGregor isn’t on the marquee.

“Now I’m going out to steal the show,” Garry said. “With him not here, there’s every reason I can be the biggest name on this card after this fight is done.

“And the Irish will be here. Listen, if the Irish say they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it. Do you really think there are Irishmen going, ‘Ah, forget it, I’ll cancel my flight to Vegas. I won’t go on a bender. I’ll just stay at home?’ They’re all coming. They’re not turning down a weekend for a bender. Having us both on the card would have been amazing, but I’m still here.”

The bout is part of a 7 p.m. pay-per-view event that is now headlined by a light heavyweight title rematch between champion Alex Pereira and former champ Jiri Prochazka.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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