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Ten Things We Learned From Conor McGregor’s Massive ESPN Interview

Conor McGregor sent the MMA world into something of a frenzy after making an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter for a far-reaching interview with Ariel Helwani.

It was a pretty in-depth interview that saw the famed-reporter asking Conor about everything from his recent controversies to his thoughts on the current landscape of the fight-game.


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The Champ Champ has spoken and he wants that UFC gold back! ??#McGregor #UFC

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For those who don’t wish to watch the 41-minute interview in full, we’ve compiled ten of the key revelations that stuck out the most in one of the Irishman’s most transparent public appearances in years.

1. He says he is deeply ashamed of his attack on the patron of an Irish pub he visited.

“In reality it doesn’t matter what happened. I was in the wrong. That man deserved to enjoy his time in the pub without it ending the way it did. And although it was five months ago and I tried to make amends and I made amends back then, it’s still – that doesn’t even matter.

“I was in the wrong. I must come here before you and take accountability and take responsibility. I owe it to the people that have been supporting me. I owe it to my mother, my father, my family. I owe it to the people who trained me in martial arts.

“That’s not who I am. That’s not the reason I got into martial arts or studying combat. The reason I got into it was to defend against that type of scenario. So to see that – months ago – although I have been making steps, continually making steps to do better and be better, to see it, it’s like a dagger into my heart as a young martial artist.

“I’m just here to own up to that and move on, carry on and face what’s coming with it.”

2. The successful return of Nate Diaz inspired him to do the same.

“I’m looking for inspiration everywhere. Like I said, I took great motivation from watching Nate do this thing. Looking at Nate, there were many things that were inspirational about that whole performance from Nate but one of the most important things was that the very thing he said post-fight was ‘the Nick Diaz army”.

“He gave a shout-out to his brother. I hope his brother is doing well, I hope Nick is doing well. He’s a soldier of the game – of the real fight game. He gave him respect straight off the bat.

“That’s why the fans love Nate. That’s why I love and respect Nate.”

3. He was originally set to return against Justin Gaethje in July.

“It was leaning toward Justin Gaethje at the time.”

“I was on such a great trajectory. I get to these great spots, and then boom, a little slip and I have to build it up again. It’s just the life I’m in right now.

“I just want to compete. Enough is enough. Let’s get me back in the mix. It’s a forgetful business. … It’s a crazy business we are in. But make no mistake, the skills are there for me. I know what I can bring to the table and what I will bring to the table.”

4. He is acutely aware that his story is starting to look like the clichéd ‘downfall’.

“I need to just stop reacting to the bait. People are trying to bait me into things. Am I the fish or am I the whale? I must be calm, I must be zen. I must lead by example. There’s so many people looking up to me. How can I react in this way? I need to get a hold of this and, like I said, I’m working very hard to do this.

“So, if I have this opportunity before me, if I don’t execute this and get this right, make this happen for the children of my children’s children, all of my successes, all of everything I’ve achieved will be void, will be meaningless to me. I must get this right and I must not go down that path, the written path, the cliché of the fighter that has it all and ruins [it]. I need to be aware of my past, of the past of other individuals, and learn from it and grow and that’s what I’m doing.”

5. He is eager to regain his title but will fight whoever the UFC put in front of him.

“In the return fight? You know, I want my world title back, I want that redemption. The camp was incorrect. I’ve learned so much on that. Knowing the committment I had in that camp and the performance I put on.

“But I’m not going to wait around. Whoever! If you’re asking me who, whoever!

6. He is angling towards a return this year. 

“It’s hard to put it… I would say ‘true’ [that I’ll fight in 2019]. I would say we can get that done.”

7. He was never close to retiring from the sport.

“You don’t understand the amount of things that go on behind the scenes. Sometimes I just need distance, like ‘hold on, I’ve rushed’. You must understand, my foot was like a balloon when I walked into that fight [with Khabib]. I’ve got all this footage backed up from that entire camp.

“When so many things are going on backstage and between my inner team and my outer team and the business side, sometimes you just need to take a back-step.

“But retirement? I don’t think I’ll ever retire from this game Ariel, never in my life. I will keep fighting until the day I go out.”

8. He is attempting to mend his relationship with Coach John Kavanagh.

“Myself and John. You know, I need to rekindle my relationship with my coach and get that back on that also.

“John is a genius at the fight-game and having him in my corner is essential, you know what I mean? I felt a little bit slighted when these interviews were going on and one of things was that ‘I hadn’t watched the fight back yet’. When I heard that, I’d watched the fight back 888 times before I even got back to the house.

“To hear that he hadn’t watched the fight back – I was a little bit taken aback.

“I understand that my half-committment has led to these thoughts and this type of thing. I’m just in the process of making things right and we’ll get there. John will be in my corner, no doubt.”

UFC Fight Night Dublin McGregor vs. Brandao - Weigh-In, The O2 Arean, Dublin 18/7/2014

9. He believes that UFC 229 was a disaster from the get-go.

“The camp was incorrect. I learned so much from that. My foot was a balloon when I walked into that fight [against Nurmagomedov]. I’ve got all the footage backed up from that entire camp, I broke my foot three weeks out and it was a balloon.

“Knowing the commitment I had in that camp, and knowing the performance I put on… he ran away for that first round, he didn’t throw a punch. He shot for the legs before he threw a punch. That first round I should have been talking to Herb [Dean].

“He says he was talking to me in the cage, there wasn’t a whisper out of him until he ended up in a dominant position. The only reason he ended up in that dominant position is because I walked around in a disrespectful way towards him because he was just running around the cage.

“I switched off for a millisecond and he got that lucky shot. Even after he got that lucky shot, although it was a beautiful shot, I bounced back up and engaged and what did he do? He shot again.

“There’s many great things I can take from that, and I can come back and avenge that.”

10. He understands that fan opinion of him has dropped and that he deserves it. 

“I know a lot of kids are looking up to me and sometimes it kind of takes me back. But I have to realize that’s not the attitude or behavior of a leader, of a martial artist, of a champion. So I must get my head screwed on and just get back in the game and fight for redemption, retribution, respect. The things that made me the man I am, so that’s what I will do.”

“As far as, like, my fellow colleagues, I deserve to be called out on it. I deserve to be called out on that behavior. It’s just unacceptable. There’s no excuse to it. I deserve everything that comes my way with it. And as far as the fans and seeing the fans disappointed in me, it hurts me so much because I am a fan. Everything I’ve done is for the fans.

“I’m a fan-favorite fighter my whole entire career has been based for the fans. Never pulling out, never turning down weights, sport, rules, everything. I’ve always done it all to light the game up for the fans and to create fanfare. And to see them disappointed in me, it hurts me more than you ever know. Like I said, retribution, redemption, respect, I will come and I will regain all of those.” (via LowKickMMA)

For those of you who want to watch the full unedited 41-minute interview, you can do so below:

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Author: Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at [email protected]