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We Need To Talk About The Irish Media’s Disgraceful Coverage Of Conor McGregor

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 20: Conor McGregor of Ireland prepares to enter the Octagon before facing Nate Diaz during the UFC 202 event at T-Mobile Arena on August 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Over the past four years, Conor McGregor’s career has followed an unprecedented trajectory in the world of combat sports. Yet in his home country, the established media would have you believe that the Irishman is no better than a common or garden thug. Why?

Since Conor McGregor’s fight with Floyd Mayweather was announced, the established media in Ireland have labelled the fighter as a racist, a bigot, an imbecile, an embarrassment to the nation and someone you would be ashamed to call your son. In fact, despite his unparalleled success, he was slated as being an example of ‘everything we teach our sons not to be’.

In January of 2013, the SBG man had just won the Cage Warriors Lightweight title having fought in front of a few hundred hardcore MMA fans in Dublin. Four and a bit years later and McGregor is due to take on the greatest boxer of our generation in what will likely be the biggest pay-per-view sporting event of all time.

But something stinks. Something putrid and rotten is tarnishing the magnitude of this event and at this point, it is too frequently rearing its ugly head to be ignored.

Despite the fact that Conor McGregor is now the most widely recognised sportsperson to ever emerge from Irish shores, the established media would have you believe that we should be ashamed of the Dubliner as they repeatedly try to one-up each other with the next vicious headline about the 29-year-old. Yet, no one is saying anything about it. It is the accepted established rhetoric and we should all nod along in united outrage and disapproval.

However, at this stage, one has to ask; what has Conor ever done to deserve such scandalous coverage?

The most puzzling aspect of the severe distaste for the Dubliner seems to be in the fact that there is no reasonable basis for it. The dissenters would have you believe that it is primarily due to the sport that he represents – mixed martial arts – or rather, wild animals trying to kill each other within the confines of metal fences. But curiously, the majority of those same naysayers have frequently spoken of boxing as a gentlemen’s sport in comparison to the barbaric nature of MMA – ignoring the fact that mortality rates in boxing far exceed those in the ‘cage fighting animalistic’ sport that they condemn.

Given this dichotomy, it is puzzling to see that the number of pieces castigating the fighter has increased in recent weeks despite the fact that the outraged anti-MMA stick that is so frequently used to beat him with is, for the time being at least, unavailable.

On Saturday night, the Dubliner is scheduled to take part in one of the biggest boxing matches in recent memory against one on one of the greatest pugilists of all time. However, noses continue to be turned up at the ‘vulgar and arrogant’ SBG man as many continue to label him as ‘an embarrassment’ to the nation.

So what really lies behind the venom? Some have castigated the Irishman’s conduct while bizarrely comparing his behaviour at press conferences to that of GAA stars on the pitch.

Yes, Conor McGregor talks trash and says things that one wouldn’t exactly expect to hear in the communion line at mass. However, this is the fight game we’re talking about and what McGregor is doing has been part and parcel of selling fights since time immemorial and to state anything otherwise is not only wrong, it proves a complete lack of knowledge of the subject. And a lack of knowledge of the realm within which McGregor is operating seems to be one of the fundamental themes of the majority of the pieces that berate him.

Speaking about his son’s unprecedented rise through the UFC ranks, Tony McGregor stated that he was blown away by his son’s ‘business acumen’ and that he had never before seen the ‘showbiz persona’ that Conor unleashed with incomparable ease.

McGregor often states that he has a very high fight IQ referring to his intelligence in interpreting his opponent mid combat. However, the Irishman’s success is down to far more than this. The ‘Notorious’ not only has a high fight IQ, he has an incomparable understanding of the fight game and the underlying business imperatives that go with it.

If one were to look at the greatest, most intriguing fighters in the history of boxing, they all embody two to three personality traits or characteristics. In addition to being supremely gifted pugilists, they are outspoken, unwaveringly arrogant and frequently controversial.

Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather stand apart as the most widely covered boxers in the history of the sport. McGregor undoubtedly has his own unique style and ability to engage and draw in even the most casual fight fans. However, there can also be no doubting the fact that the Irishman studied, observed and identified what has worked in the world of boxing and moulded the most crucial elements into his own public identity in order to achieve what he set out to at the very beginning; Get in. Get rich. Get out.

Conor McGregor

However, those who find it necessary to pen hate pieces about McGregor frequently seem to have missed this very crucial aspect of his success as they react with shock and horror to his verbal sparring as if he’s the first fighter to ever utter the f word.

Speaking after Conor McGregor’s rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202, the Dubliner’s coach, John Kavanagh, stated that, after another loud-mouthed performance at a press conference prior to the bout, McGregor calmly approached him back stage and stated; ‘The illusion of insanity is over. Time for the game plan.’

And make no mistake, although the Irishman is not in any way a fake character, he is a complex one and his public performances are often exactly what he himself said they were; an illusion. Pieces of theatre that he understands are as crucial to his success as his fighting ability. Just imagine where the Irishman would be if he nodded politely and shook the hand of his opponents and said he was going to go out and ‘do his best’ before every bout… Floyd Mayweather wouldn’t even know his name.

So, to take issue with his insult slinging at press conferences is to take issues with the fundamentals of the fight game itself, and if you have an issue with or are uninterested in the world of combat sports, then maybe you shouldn’t be writing about the characters that inhabit it?

Of course, there is no doubt that not all of the Dubliner’s conduct should be condoned. He is intentionally controversial and although he usually operates within the confines of what most would regard as acceptable trash talk, no Irishman in the spotlight should be beyond reproach and he has, on rare occasions, missed the mark.

Over the course of McGregor’s soap opera-esque promotional tour with Floyd Mayweather, the Irishman made one or two suspect remarks that, although many were right to question, it was bizarre to see a disproportionate number of Irish journalists rushing to label the Dubliner as a racist before seeking any clarification on the somewhat ambiguous comments.

As it transpired, McGregor vociferously denied such accusations, explaining the misinterpretation of what he was trying to say and strongly speaking out on the subject. His rebuttal was not only firm and admirable, it was important, and McGregor has been lauded by the American media for speaking out so excellently during such a sensitive time in the US.

But did the established media in Ireland even pay attention to the 29-year-old’s hugely important comments? Not at all. They’d made their assessment and his subsequent rebuttal did not suit the narrative – the man’s a racist bigot and that’s that.

Speaking in his final press conference after the London leg of their whirlwind tour, McGregor cut a relieved and tired figure as he stated that he was looking forward to spending some time with his new-born son. In the very same questions and answers session, the 29-year-old again highlighted what is, for his legions of supporters, the most inspiring aspect of his character.

‘I can’t wait for the day when my son is a few years older and I can sit back and show him. Show him the career and show him my fights and show him the journey that I’ve been on. And make sure I show him the hours, the years of hard work and sacrifice that has gone into achieving this life that we live.’

It was just a glimpse into the man behind the public character but it was an important glimpse of the side of McGregor that so many simply refuse to acknowledge. He is a decent hard working Irishman that constantly preaches the importance of hard work and dedication to your chosen craft – a philosophy that has seen him rise to unprecedented heights in his own, and is inspiring so many others to chase their dreams.

Speaking about McGregor’s upcoming bout on Off The Ball recently, one of the most respected figures in Irish MMA, Paddy Hoolahan, openly referenced the nation’s divide on the Irishman, saying that it was a shame to see Ireland shunning one of its most successful sons.

‘The thing is, he’s one of our own. He’s Irish. We should embrace that. We should suck it in… but all these knockers and begrudgers [shaking his head], I guess that’s just what Ireland is.’

Of course, he’s right. But unfortunately, it’s extremely unlikely that Conor McGregor will ever get the true recognition he deserves on the shores he calls home.

On Saturday night, an Irishman that countless men and women around the world see as an inspiration will take part in what will likely be recorded as the biggest pay-per-view sporting event of all time. Forgive me, if I’m proud as hell to call him one of our greatest, and one of our own.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.