Throwback: Hafthor Bjornsson Spars with Connor McGregor

If you’ve ever wanted to see Conor McGregor on Game of Thrones, this is as close as you’ll get.

The video below of McGregor and Hafthor Bjornsson — who, of course, plays menacing kind-of-zombie The Mountain on HBO’s Game of Thrones — engage in some sparring at the martial arts gym SBG Ireland, where Bjornsson was watching a friend train. The sight of the 6-foot-9, 400-pound Bjornsson facing off against 5-foot-9, 145-pound McGregor is something you won’t see in any sport with weight classes.

MMA Fighting reports that McGregor approached Bjornsson in the gym and asked for a photo of the two looking like they were going to fight. Then they just kind of ended up fighting.

We squared off as if we were gonna do it. Then all of a sudden, he’s bouncing and I’m bouncing. Next thing you know, we’re having a full, bareknuckle body shot fight. 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 motherf*cker is so big, I have to start smashing him to the body. (…) That’s a big man — 6-foot-9, 400 pounds. And I still folded him up.

Meanwhile, Bjornsson says he went easy on the guy, telling Men’s Health, “I knew he had a big fight coming up, so I was gentle with him.”

As fun as it is to act like the two are actually bickering over who beat whom, they were clearly just having some fun. But the video has sparked a ton of discussion as to whether or not one of the best mixed martial artists on the planet could win a fight against someone who is a foot taller, 250 pounds heavier, and one of the strongest humans on the planet — but not a martial artist.

It’s certainly true that someone as skilled as McGregor could defeat an opponent who is significantly larger than him, but with that big a size and strength difference, particularly since elite strongmen have pretty great cardio (at least in short spurts), we’re fairly certain the bigger man would win. With that much raw strength and size on his side, we’re pretty sure that if Bjornsson managed to get a hold of McGregor it would be over for the wiry Irishman — the difference between the two is simply too big, and it looks like Bjornsson is legitimately afraid of accidentally hurting him in the sparring video.

(Check out one author’s argument for why combat should be a part of fitness competitions!)

Despite widespread rumors that McGregor was going to have a role in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones and was destined to actually fight The Mountain onscreen, it’s not happening. He was approached to play a part in the show immediately after a grueling fight in UFC 202, and he was in no mood.

I’m banged up, my shin’s in a heap, I’ve been kicking his knee straight for 25 minutes, my leg’s in bits, and he’s trying to offer me a Game of Thrones role. And I’m saying, ‘Listen, come at me with sh*t I want to hear, I’m not trying to be in show business, I’m trying to be in the fight business (…) That was the only time I ever heard the [words] Games of Thrones. And it went everywhere like months later! (…) I’ve never been in contact with nobody from Game of Thrones and now I’m starring in Game of f*cking Thrones!

He also turned down roles in the last xXx movie and an upcoming Predator movie, so it sounds like if we ever want to see Bjornsson and McGregor tangle again, it’ll have to be inside a UFC ring.

Featured image via TheMacLife productions on YouTube

Nick English

Nick English

Nick is a content producer and journalist with over seven years’ experience reporting on four continents. His first articles about health were on a cholera outbreak in rural Kenya while he was reporting for a French humanitarian organization. His next writing job was covering the nightlife scene in Shanghai. He’s written on a lot of things.

After Shanghai, he went on to produce a radio documentary about bodybuilding in Australia before finishing his Master’s degrees in Journalism and International Relations and heading to New York City. Here, he’s been writing on health full time for more than five years for outlets like BarBend, Men's Health, VICE, and Popular Science.

No fan of writing in the third person, Nick’s passion for health stems from an interest in self improvement: How do we reach our potential?

Questions like these took him through a lot of different areas of health and fitness like gymnastics, vegetarianism, kettlebell training, fasting, CrossFit, Paleo, and so on, until he realized (or decided) that strength training fit best with the ideas of continuous, measurable self improvement.

At BarBend his writing focuses a little more on nutrition and long-form content with a heaping dose of strength training. His underlying belief is in the middle path: you don’t have to count every calorie and complete every workout in order to benefit from a healthy lifestyle and a stronger body. Plus, big traps are cool.

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