When it comes to unlikely sporting bromances, the bond shared between Conor McGregor and Kieran Tierney is certainly up there with the most unusual.
Despite one of them sporting Versace and Gucci apparel after training sessions and the other using a Tesco bag to carry his belongings, the two have struck up a firm friendship over the years.
Arsenal left-back Tierney, who is enjoying a wonderful season in north London, idolises the Irishman and the pair connected on social media while the Scottish footballer was still at Celtic.
McGregor, who admitted to being a Hoops fan in 2014, met the left-back at a UFC event in Belfast and the pair chatted over their love of Celtic.
They stayed in contact over social media and Tierney even gifted him a signed shirt after McGregor’s pals told the Scotland international the UFC superstar would be thrilled to receive it.
Speaking to the Daily Record in 2019, Tierney admitted he struggled to sleep out of excitement after seeing the former two-weight world champion actually wearing the shirt during a training session.
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“Honestly, I couldn’t sleep that night,” he said. “He posted the picture at 10.50pm and I was sitting there thinking, ‘No way.’ That was me up the full night, and I went buzzing into training.
“I’m a massive fan, particularly the way he talks about positivity. It’s all about mindset and how you react to people doubting you, and how to come back from defeats. Any athlete can relate to him.”
When the former Celtic defender was sidelined for ten weeks with a groin injury towards the end of the 2018/19 season, it was McGregor who gave him some vital fitness tips to get back on the pitch.
He said: “Throughout my injury Connor McGregor was brilliant with me. He has a programme he does on the watt bike that helped him get fit and he was giving me tips on that, which was amazing.
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“I was doing work on the watt bike with the Celtic physios anyway – that’s what gets you fit through different programmes. But I found out his programme and had a look to see if mine was similar.
“I was still doing Celtic’s programme but the little tips from him helped too. He’s my biggest hero outside of football so it was amazing. I don’t know how my results compared to his but it was pretty good.
“It was just brilliant to hear from him. When you’re injured you always feel a bit lower than usual because you’re not out on the pitch training with everyone.
“To hear from your hero and get advice from him lifted me that wee bit.”
Despite regularly joking with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos on Instagram and even meeting Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, McGregor admitted before his UFC comeback last year that Tierney is actually his favourite player.
“He rose up and is a phenomenal, phenomenal football player,” the Irishman gushed about the Arsenal left-back.
“I am in conversation with him a lot. He is a great guy, a good kid and I’m rooting for him.”
And he will be no doubt be pleased to learn of Tierney’s full throttle approach on the training ground.
“He’s a driving force and he’s a throwback,” former Arsenal defender Martin Keown said.
“In training, they have to tell him to calm down because he’s tackling ferociously. I really like that attitude that he brings.
“He has got everything in his game, it’s about building around him. Perhaps an Arsenal captain in the making.”