Exclusive – Alan Power on growing up with Conor McGregor and how he hopes the UFC fighter is following Lincoln's FA Cup exploits

 Alan Power and Conor McGregor - Lincoln City midfielder Alan Power hoping old friend Conor McGregor
Alan Power (left) grew up with UFC fighter Conor McGregor, though the pair now move in different circles

Alan Power has gained some notoriety back home in Dublin with his exploits for Lincoln City in the FA Cup this season, but it is the attention of the man nicknamed ‘The Notorious’ that would really put a shine on things.

When Power celebrated scoring the non-league side’s equaliser on their way to defeating Championship promotion chasers Brighton in the fourth round, he chose to mimic the “Billy Strut”, the extravagant pre-fight swagger that has helped turn UFC fighter Conor McGregor into one of the world’s most recognisable athletes.

It was an eye-catching celebration, but it has not yet caught the attention of the man who made it famous. Power is a huge McGregor fan, watching his every step towards as he rose from a little known amateur fighter in Dublin, training in his spare time as he worked as an apprentice plumber, to become a global sensation in the world of mixed martial arts.

Yet, this is not hero worship. Power grew up with McGregor, played Sunday League football with him and the pair used to socialise as teenagers.

McGregor did not simply reach for the stars as a fighter, but grabbed and put them in a chokehold  defying those who warned him that fighters from Ireland would never conquer the American market.

Alan Power (left) celebrates making it 1-0 to Lincoln City Credit: GETTY IMAGES

He is on different sporting planet now to his old friend, but on the eve of Lincoln’s tantalising tie against Premier League Burnley, Power spoke of his huge respect for his old friend and how he hoped the magic of the FA Cup might help jog McGregor’s memory.

“The goal celebration caused a bit of storm,” said Power, with a a sigh that turns into a giggle. “While we were waiting around to take the penalty, Terry Hawkridge came up to me and said I had to do it if I scored.

“We’d been talking about it for a while because we follow UFC and Conor really closely as a team. Looking back, it might have been a little embarrassing if we had only got a draw, but thankfully we won the game.

“Conor is huge in Ireland, especially in Dublin. He’s someone I admire greatly, what he has achieved, it’s remarkable. We used to knock around in the same circle of friends back home when we were growing up. He played Sunday League football where I did, actually he wasn’t a bad footballer, but he chose a different path.

Power celebrates with Lincoln fans after their fourth-round defeat of Brighton Credit: REX FEATURES

“He made the right decision, he’s a better fighter than a footballer, but who knows, I might have been the same!

“I’ve not spoken to him in years, he’s a superstar now. The last time I spoke to him he was cage fighting in Dublin and wasn’t too sure if he was going to continue with it, but he’s a phenomenon. When he went over to America to fight in the UFC, we lost touch, but everyone who knew him then, we’re so proud of everything he has achieved.

“The celebration was just my way of paying a little tribute. There has been a lot of hype surrounding it since but I’ve not heard from him. I know BT Sport tried to contact him on Twitter, but I doubt he even looked at it.

“He’s a busy man, he’s got bigger things to worry about than a footballer he used to know from Lincoln, but I hope he’s seen it.” 

When McGregor was throwing his first punches as a cage fighter in Ireland, Power moved to England to pursue his dream of playing professional football, making one appearance for Nottingham Forest, before signing for Rushden and Diamonds. He joined Lincoln six years ago and has been through the tough times, as well as the good, with a club that floundered after losing its League status in 2011.

Lincoln’s cup run has done wonders for the club’s finances and profile, but whatever happens against Burnley, it is promotion that really matters. The Imps have been out of the Football League for six years, but have combined the exhilaration of a cup run while maintaining their lead at the top of the National League. At 29, Power has waited his whole career for a season like this.

Power is congratulated by his Lincoln City team-mates after scoring against Brighton Credit: PA

“Lincoln is very different to Dublin, but I’ve been here six years now and I ’m very happy,” he explained. “It’s a nice, quiet place and the football team hasn’t always been part of everyday life here, but it is at the moment. The way we are playing, the more attention we are getting, it’s great.

“As a club, it has been through some tough times, we’ve had seasons battling relegation and it has been hard work. I think this season is the moment all that hard work paid off.

“We keep reminding ourselves that we have achieved nothing. Promotion is the main aim, getting back into the Football League is what we have been working towards the whole time I’ve been a Lincoln player, but you have to enjoy cup runs like this because you might not get another one like it for 20 years.”

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