Former two-weight UFC title challenger and current Bellator MMA star Chael Sonnen believes that Conor McGregor’s actions at Bellator 187 in Dublin earlier this month indicate that the Irishman can no longer tell where he ends, and what was once a character – ‘The Notorious’ one – begins.
McGregor invaded the cage at the Bellator event after SBG Ireland teammate Charlie Ward knocked affable Irish veteran John Redmond stiff in the embers of the opening round of a middleweight scrap. However, due to some confusion around the timing of the finish and whether or not it had occurred before or after the bell sounded to end the round, referee Marc Goddard had not officially called a halt to the bout at that point. When he tried to explain this to McGregor and Ward, who was eventually declared the winner by KO at 4:59 of the first round, Goddard briefly put his hands on the UFC lightweight champion. McGregor reacted by pursuing and shoving the official before he was restrained. Later, McGregor jumped up on the cage from the outside and slapped a Bellator employee, Michael Johnson.
Sonnen was not at all impressed by the latter offence. He claimed that McGregor’s striking of Johnson, or “MJ”, changed his own relationship with the Dubliner for good.
“MJ reached out to stop him as Conor is coming over the cage, so Conor hits him,” Sonnen said on a recent edition of his ‘You’re Welcome’ podcast. “That was beyond uncalled for. That changed Conor and I’s relationship. The second he hit MJ, Conor and I’s relationship has now changed.”
“That’s a tough one for me. I mean, I’m really mad about that.”
Sonnen became a huge name in the MMA world when he adopted a pro-wrestling style character and approach to self-promotion, and he is an unashamed fan of sports entertainment. It came as no surprise then, to hear ‘The American Gangster’ utter a term commonly used in wrestling – “mark out” – when he went on to claim that McGregor has bought into the character he portrays too much.
“He’s starting to mark out for his own gimmick,” said Sonnen. “As human beings, we are whoever we pretend to be. When you get these guys to adopt a character, over a small period of time, they become that person. We’ve seen this from the highest of levels.”
“This is a real thing,” Sonnen added. “Actors do it all the time. The great actors become the characters they’re playing at that time, whether it’s a cowboy, it’s a bad guy — I’m watching Conor mark out for his own gimmick(via BloodyElbow).”
“Hey Conor, you’re not really a creep, you just play one on TV! You’re not really a guy who’s out of your mind and can’t really keep your cool. You just play one on TV, then you go back to your real life, Dee and your baby, you go back to your gym and your teammates. But he’s starting to mark out for his own gimmick.”
“People were coming out saying ‘oh he’s on coke, that’s the only reason he would act that way. He was drunk and was on coke.’ I don’t think that’s right — he probably was drunk, that part was probably true.”
Speaking to Irish broadcaster TV3 recently, McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh stated that the fighter’s actions at Bellator 187 were fueled by the intense emotion stirred up by the victory of his close friend, Ward.
“Maybe [he was] a little bit over-emotional there, but you sort of understand when you know his and Charlie’s relationship for the last number of years,” said the SBG Ireland founder.
Sonnen, however, feels that someone in the McGregor camp should have read the 29-year-old Pay-per-view sensation the riot act after the incident.
“When I watch him on this slope, I watch him misbehaving and acting a fool, I watched him assault two different people and break these rules, it’s very hard not to come to the conclusion that, Conor, you gotta slow down a little bit,” said the 40-year-old veteran.
“He did a video right after that got captured and he’s with his little team and he’s justifying his actions, and there wasn’t one of them who said, ‘Hey, you broke the rules, you overshadowed the fight, you assaulted MJ… pushed a referee, put your own licence at [risk], put the entire sport, put the return to Ireland… I mean you did a lot of things here trying to get yourself attention'” added Sonnen.
“It was more alarming that none of his teammates, even in the post-fight explanation of this behaviour, grabbed him and go, ‘Hey, what the hell?
“I can just tell you, and I’ll just use myself as an example, had I broke bad like that Clayton Hires [one of Sonnen’s coaches] would have pulled me aside so goddamn fast that Mike Mazzulli[director of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation – the commission that oversaw the Dublin event] would have seen what Clayton Hires did to me and wouldn’t have even suspended to me.
“There doesn’t appear to be somebody that’s taken that kind of a leadership role.”
Mazzulli, of course, hasn’t suspended McGregor, and many have suggested that he can’t due to the fact that the Dubliner isn’t licensed by the Mohegan commission. Mazzulli did, however, tell Ariel Helwani that he intends to explore his options with attorneys.
Mazzulli also claimed that the UFC have already punished McGregor by removing him from UFC 219, an event for which he was never officially announced but at which it was speculated he might fight interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson.
McGregor may yet face further sanctions from the U.S commissions with whom he is licensed.