Ahead of an anticipated nine-figure pay-out this Saturday night when he fight Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor’s transcendence deserves a closer look.
You’ll do nuthin’
Who the fook is that guy?!
Conor McGregor has gone from being seen as a cocky fighter, to a great fighter, to something so much more. McGregor isn’t seen as a MMA phenomenon here in his home country, where mixed martial arts news not concerning ‘The Notorious’ barely registers a tremor on the mainstream’s Richter. He is a cultural phenomenon.
60 g’s babyyy
Quick trip down memory lane. April 6, 2013. A day of monumental importance for MMA and the UFC. And possibly for household ‘McGregor-isms’. Conor McGregor finally got that career defining call. “The UFC has a card in Stockholm. You’re in”
Marcus Brimage stood across the octagon, doing his best sacrificial lamb impression, even if he wasn’t in on the deal. He may as well have been cast in Jurassic Park as the goat. He was the bait for the new shark in the division.
Nothing was going to stop Conor McGregor from taking his destiny into his own hands. He needed 67 seconds to dispatch of Brimage.
The whirling maelstrom of bolo punches and capoeira kicks was too much for the Alabama native. The real fireworks came when a mic was thrust in front of the Dubliner’s face.
What happened next set the tone for the next four years.
“60 g’s babyyy…Haha”
The laugh was one of delight and relief. In the post-fight press conference, Conor opened up. He had picked up his €188 dole on the way to the airport. Now he was going home with a €60,000.
While he may be dealing in nine-figure fees in the very near future, at the time, this was life changing. This €60,000 liberated the future two-weight champion and allowed him to pursue MMA in the most genuine sense possible.
Now he had the financial backing to take his training to the next level (and fund his tailor made suit addiction).
Compare this sheer elation to the post-fight interview and press conference at UFC 205. McGregor had just become the first simultaneous two-weight champion in the UFC’s history.
But he was agitated, irked by the lack of a second belt and something else. There seemed to be some issue bubbling under the surface taking from what was his crowning glory.
In the post-fight press conference it became clear were his thoughts lay. They were focused strictly on big business.
No one [has] came talk to me since the sale has happened, as a business man.
Where’s my share, where’s my equity…I want ownership now, I want equal share, I want what I deserve.
The brashness of the announcement seems astonishing. But is it really that outlandish? Here’s a confident man, conscious of an impending addition to his young family, and aware of his worth to his employer. He knows that without Conor McGregor, the UFC wouldn’t have been sold for over $4 billion. He had become a spectre looming over the company, as much as he was its shining light.
Brink of History
And now, here we are. A day out from the most fantastical cross-code match up this side of Bruce Lee versus Muhammed Ali. Realising that pay in the UFC has a certain ceiling, McGregor decided to remove any ceiling and head for financial stratosphere.
Keen to garner nine-figure paycheques, The Notorious wrote his own tale and made a fantasy match up with the richest athlete in combat sports a reality. Now, we see boxing rings emblazoned with ‘McGregor promotions’ dotted around the fight capital of the world.
Seeing a limit being placed on his earning potential by the UFC and WME-IMG, Conor McGregor reinvented himself as a boxer and created enough hype to make this fight a necessity rather than a whim.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of McGregor’s transcendence from athlete to icon has been his success in luring out the chief cash cow in the game. Regardless of skill level in boxing or MMA, Floyd Mayweather was not coming out of retirement for just anyone.
He needed a PPV behemoth to bring the desired dollars to the table. And currently, nobody speaks dollar more fluently than The Notorious.
Battling against the Tide
This journey towards a nine-figure payout has been paved with well wishers and coat-tail cling ons. But it has also featured detractors by the dozen.
One of the most fascinating aspects of The Notorious’ rise to super-stardom is the lack of recognition he receives at home, from those in power. Now, this may seem contradictory, considering the multitudes of Credit Union loans procured around Ireland to follow Conor McGregor on his journey to the top of the UFC.
Yes, he has been the people’s champion here at home, often the working class people’s champion. However, McGregor’s achievements on the way up rarely scratched the surface of mainstream reporting in Ireland.
The hesitancy to accept MMA as an actual sport as opposed to ‘human cock-fighting’ has in turn hindered the levels of recognition one of our very few world class athletes receives.
Small-minded individuals on national airways failed to accept the sport for what it is (a sport) during Conor’s breakout. One would only have to listen to Ray D’Arcy for a couple of minutes, discussing MMA, in order to consider it wanton violence, with zero rules outside kill or be killed.
Such stubbornness to appreciate the art in MMA has meant that our own two-weight world champion has yet to receive an official homecoming, after his successes.
This is a country that greeted a soccer team that reached the World Cup quarter-finals with a the biggest gathering seen since the Pope visited. A team littered with men of questionable Irish heritage, not to mind actual nationality.
Greeted as heroes! And they were in their own right. But there’s no fanfare for an all-conquering, unashamed Irishman who loves nothing more than to flaunt his tri-colour after a triumph? For shame government officials, for shame.
Just look at our Minister for Sport’s reaction to Conor McGregor recently. Ross said he was not a fan of McGregor’s upcoming bout with Floyd Mayweather and would not be watching. That’s right, we have a Minister for Sport who won’t celebrate our most famous sports person currently. If ever the expression “a little bit Irish” needed to be peddled out, I feel now is as appropriate a time as any.
Couple this with the fact MMA does not even have a regulatory body in Ireland and the SBG fighter’s achievements become even more impressive. He elevated himself above the petty attitude of the decision makers in this country and blazed a trail regardless.
What’s there to fault?
Now examine a narrative for me and try to pick flaws. We have a 29-year-old father of one, a self-made millionaire in less than four years.
He is able to provide for his son, his son’s son, his son’s son’s son and so on. He dresses immaculately, oozes confidence, believes in his own ability and executes on what he says.
Nothing too bad so far? Here’s a guy who also can strip away the bravado and share softer moments with his newborn son. He’s not afraid to let emotion wash over him following a big success and celebrates these moments with his nearest and dearest.
Here is a man, like any other, who was able to act the maggot at his sister’s wedding, but also foot the bill. Who would not aspire to be such a character, or at least emulate this on a smaller scale.
On August 26, Conor McGregor will make a nine-figure sum, win, lose or draw with Floyd Mayweather. The result in a sense is obsolete. He has fulfilled yet another outlandish prophecy.
But these prophecies are built on a very solid foundation. Conor McGregor’s success lays rooted in good, old fashioned hard work. A facet that all Irish people are able to admire.
However, the deviation with Conor comes in the form of, the very un-Irish quality of, being unapologetic for being successful. It’s a combination of these traits that has helped one Crumlin boy become one of the most recognisable people on the planet.
So why not celebrate him for it? While he is here.
Here we have a 29-year-old self-made millionaire who is single-handedly responsible for changing the outlook of hundreds of thousands on this Emerald Isle.
Gone are the days of wringing the hands with nerves and hoping for the best for the little Irish underdog. Thanks to Conor McGregor, many people are realising their self-worth. Many people are not afraid to push the limits and be recognised on a global scale.
Conor McGregor has transcend his sport and art to become an iconic figure
Noel Ryan, Pundit Arena