Up until a few months ago, I did not like UFC. I was quite ignorant towards it in the same way Senator Catherine Noone was and thought it was a version of boxing with less rules. I had heard mention of this McGregor dude who was on the dole a few months previously and was now starting to tear up the UFC. It was only after his first Boston fight that I really realized how big he was getting. After it, I saw a documentary on him (below). He piqued my interest due to his style and charisma in front of the camera but mostly because of his big fucking mouth. He was an arrogant prick from beginning to end but I came away liking him a little.
Years ago, I would have been willing someone like that to fail. I would have cheered when he tore his ACL and hoped that would be the last we would see of him. Maybe I've matured and/or become more accepting but every thing this guy said was genuine - in stark contrast to the likes of Johnny Maziel who talks a big game before going out and shitting the bed, loudly and often. McGregor says that he is the best there is and he believes it. He says that fighting and the human anatomy is all he cares about and it is (aside from money, which is understandable). He apologized to his fans after a fight for boring them in the final round after snapping his ACL and he meant it.
There is something about a guy who talks a big game and then backs it up. I respect that in the same way I respect Richard Sherman. He is a very well educated guy (4.2 GPA in High School) with a mouth just as big as his brain. Not a week goes by that he doesn't find new and creative ways to say that is the best corner back in the NFL. He has a deep seeded belief and it's one that is hard to disagree with. Sometimes he takes it a little too far, alienating some people. Same goes for McGregor.
He has a sporting persona. I again look to football for someone to equate this to. Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots Head Coach, comes across as aloof, rude, obnoxious and lacking almost any redeemable qualities - his football knowledge aside. He never smiles, refuses to answer stupid questions, and manages to hawk up large wads of phlegm and snot from the deepest recesses of his nose at the most inappropriate times. But every so often you see the human side of Belichick shine through and you know he's not a complete asshole. He's putting on a show. Jumping the octagon to attack Aldo was absolutely for show but can you say it didn't hype up the title fight within seconds of it becoming a reality? Will it not break all kinds of hype records (Clegane-bowl has nothing on this) as the fight draws nearer? Will the McGregor brand not profit immensely from a simple stunt like that?
The man is Irish and wears that badge proudly - as do the rest of the Irish UFC fighters, it seems. He wears his Irish heart on his inked-on sleeves and gives emigrants like myself something else to connect us to home. Here in the US, soccer and rugby are sporting afterthoughts. UFC is not and now McGregor is one of its biggest stars. He has made himself a truly global brand for the Irish around the world. 12% of ticket sales from the Siver fight were from Ireland and I would wager another huge chunk were from New York and surrounding places as fans swarmed Boston to be part of this event.
I'm not ashamed to say that I have only recently jumped on this bandwagon. I didn't hop on it because it was the cool thing to do. This guy, who I would probably hate in real life, drew me in. He made me want to watch a sport I had no previous interest in. I wanted to see if he could even come close to backing up what he was saying. Even people who hate him tune in because they want to see him get his clock cleaned and his big mouth firmly wired shut.
I missed the vast majority of the Patriots Championship game to go to a UFC event. If you told me that would happen a year ago, I would have hit you with a spinning back kick to the face. But he is an entertainer in all facets of the game, from promotion in the run up to a fight, in the octagon itself, and post fight interviews. You don't want to miss any of it, love him or hate him. Irish sport is littered with people and teams who shy away from the limelight, talk themselves down, and hope to be the under dog. McGregor wants to be top dog every where he goes.
Am I in love with the guy? No, although this post does feel like he has me on the ground in a rear naked choke and I am ever-so-delicately jerking him off. Do I know anything about MMA or the UFC? More than I did last week but not very much. Will this turn into a lifelong passion for me? Doubtful. Someone may come along and split McGregor open at some point and his career may fizzle out into nothingness but at the moment, I'm finding him as entertaining as any other sportsperson on the planet and I watch sport to be entertained, so long may it continue.