There surely can’t be a single person on earth who hasn’t heard the name “Conor McGregor” over the past month or so. Okay maybe some random, indigenous tribe based on the banks of the Amazon River, but I still reckon they’ve heard of a kid from Dublin lighting up the world.
Ultimately that’s what he’s done, set the world on fire.
The quirky trash talk, the swagger, the knockouts, the Gucci mink, the press conferences, the Rolls Royce’s.
For me though it’s the story.
It’s the dedication, it’s the belief, and it’s the rise.
“Life’s a rollercoaster. You’re up one minute, then you’re down the next. But who doesn’t like rollercoasters?”
I remember when Conor McGregor first caught my attention. UFC Fight Night 26: Shogun vs Sonnen. I recall sleepily tuning in to watch what seemed to be a rather tasty card. I thought I’d give the pre-lims the benefit of the doubt for a change, and caught Conor’s second UFC bout against a young Max Holloway. I’d only really been into Mixed Martial Arts a couple of years, at the recommendation of a good friend, but it was quickly becoming a keen interest. Nevertheless, Conor hypnotized me.
Watching Conor McGregor in the pre-lims that night left me in awe at the talent the young Irishman possessed, and the confidence in his demeanour. It’s only then I began to pay more attention to the “Notorious”, and began to watch interviews, and keep tabs on his progress.
A year or so down the line, and he had consumed me. I was watching every interview, Google searching on a weekly basis, I just could not get enough. To this day I believe I’ve watched 97% of Conor McGregor’s content on YouTube, as it makes great viewing when faced with a stack of ironing.
Fast-forward two years and this little gem of a secret had been well and truly discovered.
Viral video’s of Conor’s shenanigans dominated social media. His one liners, his knack of predicting the outcome of his fights had attracted a whole new flock of fans not really familiar to the UFC. It’s this meteoric rise which largely contributed to the UFC being sold for around $4billion in 2016.
People were donning Irish flags and scouring their family tree’s in the hope of finding some Great Grandmother of Irish blood, so they too could feel a part of it.
So what is it about Conor? Whats’s the attraction?
I don’t love Conor McGregor because he’s funny. I don’t imitate the phrases he regularly coins (well, not in front of people anyway, bathroom mirror job) like most of those who regularly share the videos. I don’t love him because of the outrageous attire, or the obsession with money.
I love him because 5 years ago, he was on the dole. He quit a plumbing apprenticeship, after deciding that’s not what he wanted from life. He instead decided to pursue an extremely unlikely career in Mixed Martial Arts. Unlikely, but yet he hammered away at the craft he loved, dreaming of the day he could lace up those UFC 4oz gloves and break some jaws.
He had a goal, he set his mind, heart and soul on that goal, and fuck me did he achieve it.
I love Conor because of the work ethic, the single-minded determination, and belief in himself and his abilities.
“There’s no better feeling than saying you’re gonna do something, putting it out there for the world to see, and going out there and doing it.”
I love Conor because underneath the charade, and the frequent showers in dollar bills, there is a humble, down to earth Dubliner. A family man. A man who respects a tight circle. A man who seeks only to improve himself constantly, and be the best man he can be.
In a world dominated by the Kardashians, here is a role model who actually inspires. Who shows kids that if you work your bollocks off, you can achieve anything you want. The materialistic circus is backed up by a common theme. Hard work.
A man who lost the biggest fight of his career at the time, the victim of a Nate Diaz rear naked choke, and a man who bounced back. Despite the extravagance, a humble man. A man who picked himself up, got back in the gym, learnt, and came back to get that win back.
He highlighted to me, during one of the most difficult periods of my life, that we get back up.
“We can either run from adversity, or we can conquer our adversity head on, and conquer it.”
He’s gone from fights attracting crowds of less than 100, to the largest pay-per-view event in history. Scrapping with amateurs, to a boxing bout with arguably the greatest of all time, Floyd Mayweather.
Is he fazed? No. It’s another day in the office. Again, there’s been some hilarious one liners in the build up to this tour, but it’s the attitude that provokes a wry smile.
The self belief attached to the claims he will “drop Floyd in two” is married perfectly to amount of preparation the Irishman has undergone.
So this Saturday, when Conor stands toe-to-toe with Floyd, I’ll be fucking bursting inside if he does achieve what has been dubbed as impossible. I won’t be amazed at the spectacle, I’ll be emotionally attached to the achievement.
As a UFC fan, there’s a sense of “he’s one our own.” But every single Conor fan in some way uses his story to drag them through the struggle of the day-to-day grind. He wakes those who daydream, encourages them to take steps to achieve their goal.
He’s not just representing the fighting Irish, or the MMA community.
He’s representing every single human being who has ever had a dream and fought to achieve it.
“There’s two things I’ve learnt is that one, hard work pays off, and that two, dreams come true.”
Fucking drop him Conor lad. For everyone who wakes up every morning and longs to be somewhere else, doing somehting else.