Article by Craig Hanson, Sports Journalist
For every MMA fighter, in the UFC or elsewhere, the primary focus is on fighting. However, that doesn’t mean that these guys and girls don’t have hobbies or interests outside of the cage. Several MMA fighters have publicly expressed their love for the sport of soccer. Many of them follow the game so closely they could probably give you a few soccer predictions with relative accuracy. Here are just a few of the most famous cases of MMA fighters who love soccer.
Conor McGregor: Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Conor McGregor has become the biggest star in the history of the sport, but once upon a time, back in his homeland Mr. McGregor dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player. Like most of his peers kicking a ball around on the streets of Dublin, he fantasised about scoring a goal and running to the hordes of fans. His favourite club, as is the case for many in that part of the world, was Manchester United, and so his imagination would run wild with images of a packed Old Trafford singing his name. He may not have achieved that dream, but in another way, he’s gone one better.
Ciryl Gane: The French heavyweight has developed into one of the most exciting and technically well rounded fighters in the UFC today but his talent doesn’t stop there. Not only has he been seen at several Paris Saint-Germain matches as a spectator but he also took part in a charity match between Team Marseille Legends and team UNICEF in France. He turned out for Team UNICEF and played against such names as former Chelsea striker and UEFA Champions League winner Didier Drogba.
Amanda Nunes: The Lioness may have recently lost her crown to Juliana Pena but few could dispute her standing as one of the best, if not the best female fighter in the history of MMA. However, a little known fact about Nunes is that before she discovered the sport, she had actually aspired to become a professional soccer player. She played for her local team Salvador as a child and even got the chance to try out for Vitoria but her parents thought it best she focus on her studies.
Jose Aldo: Fellow Brazilian Jose Aldo is perhaps the best example of an MMA fighter who loves football. The featherweight icon is an avid Flamengo and Chelsea fan and was a star at youth level. He also participated in a charity match, turning out in his native Brazil in an event which even included the likes of Brazil and PSG star Neymar, who he humiliated with a flick.
Kenny Florian: Fantastic fighter, arguably an even better analyst, but also a fine soccer player, American-Peruvian Kenny Florian was one-to-watch at high school and college level. He attended Boston College and played varsity as an NCAA Division 1 soccer player. Despite this success, Florian eventually found himself in the UFC octagon where it’s fair to say he didn’t do half bad. He also competed with Jose Aldo in a keepie-uppie challenge inside the octagon.
There are countless other examples of MMA fighters who love the sport of soccer, especially as MMA grows in popularity around the globe, where soccer is often the most popular sport.