Despite the obvious disadvantage – a foot in height and around 230Ibs in weight – Conor McGregor’s impromptu sparring session with ‘The Mountain’ from Game of Thrones helped propel the Irishman into the mainstream.
Having claimed the interim UFC featherweight title against Chad Mendes in July 2015, an undisputed clash with Jose Aldo, the pound-for-pound king of MMA beckoned.
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‘The Notorious’ ramped up the mind games with the Brazilian and engaged in mental warfare in front of the cameras, but was hard at work behind the scenes ahead of UFC 194.
Along with several teammates from the Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, McGregor went to Iceland to remove himself of any distractions and prepare for his crowning moment.
Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, who starred in the HBO hit show and was the 2018 World’s Strongest Man, met the charismatic MMA star and agreed to take part in a slow-paced, bare-knuckle spar.
As an indication of his strength, Bjornsson recently broke Eddie Hall’s 500kg deadlift record to huge fanfare.
And when he met McGregor, what unfolded was truly a spectacle as the giant – who once crushed a man’s skull in the television series – chased his diminutive opponent across the mat just two months away from his world title opportunity.
However, years later, Bjornsson warned McGregor he could have seriously hurt the Irishman had he really wanted to.
“Bring me shorts and put us in a cage, and I’ll fight him again,” Bjornsson told the YouTube channel Off the Ball
“If I get a grab on him,” Bjornsson said, it would be over ‘in 10 seconds’.
When asked how many versions of McGregor it would take to beat him, Bjornsson said, “Maybe five.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, McGregor remembers the exchange somewhat differently.
“I was hitting him with some shots,” McGregor said at a UFC 194 press call. “I had to hit him with some shots. He was trying to hit me as well. He wasn’t taking it easy.
“He tried to grab me and tried to pull my head off. I defended, freed the head. I was like this mother f***** is so big, I have to start smashing him to the body.”
“It was a lot of fun,” McGregor added. “That’s a big man; 6ft 9in, 400 pounds. And I still folded him up.”