It is the most unfavorable conditions that make a success extraordinary. This was a common sentence we hear from time to time in sports and everyday life. Almost like a mantra repeated over and over for several sportsmen. But, one fighter in particular, deserves to be accustomed to this sentence more than others: Conor McGregor.
Several of you may be sad since yesterday, several of you may have enjoyed seeing Conor McGregor, once again on the canvass losing for the first time in his career by TKO. Regardless of your emotions, we all know that the contribution of the Irish fighter for this sport has been and is still absolute. Arguably, the UFC won’t be what it is now without the tremendous contribution of Conor McGregor and his ability of attracting worldwide attention. Concept and evolution of UFC are linked with a red thread to Conor McGregor, the ‘Notorious’ face symbol of MMA and combat sports in general.
Conor has a personal story that seems to be taken from a great Hollywood movie or a great educational book. His life is the perfect hyperbole of self-denial and ambition, and today, that we are far from its beginnings, we realized that this amazing story has come to an end. Therefore, before Conor McGregor is forgotten and his winning aura completely destroyed as it happens to many sportsmen when they do not know when to end their own careers, I decided to go through his life for the last time. From Zero to Hero.
Conor was born into a working-class family in suburban Dublin on a mid-summer afternoon, 14 July 1988. His father had first been a plumber, then a taxi driver. The mother took care of the house and the two older daughters, Erin and Aoife. The labor is short, lasting an hour: Notorious was in a hurry to make himself known. Conor saw the light with clenched fists, already ready to fight against a difficult life that would test him relentlessly.
As a kid Conor McGregor loved kickboxing and soccer, but he wasn’t cut out for the green rectangle. When he was 12 years old, Conor tried in Yellowsone as a attacking winger footballer, but he couldn’t score goals. Then he moved to be a left-back but he didn’t have better results. Being physically small, Conor was always unable to stop attackers with a stronger physique, and in the end, he decided to abandon football for boxing, a legacy of his father. Boxing saves him in several ways. It turns out, in fact, that the young Conor was short, often bullied for his size, although over the years he has repeatedly denied these rumors, also, in part, not to affect the aura of extreme confidence that has always projected. In fact, it will be a completely accidental episode that will convince him to devote himself completely to combat sports. Conor McGregor recalled that episode: “When I was young I never seriously practiced boxing until I got into a fight over a girl with her ex-boyfriend, who was older and bigger than me. Today that guy and I are friends but it’s nice to know that I’m always able to bend him like a lawn chair!”.
Subsequently, Conor McGregor integrated capoeira, grappling and karate to boxing. After leaving scjool and studies, Conor became a plumber’s assistant and after twelve-hour shifts he used to rush to the gym to train, to follow his passion. Passion that also leads him to clash with his father: “When I left my job as a plumber I had a serious fight with my father […]. I told him that fighting was my way, he would have regretted what he had told me when I would have been a millionaire at 25!”.
At the age of 18, Conor McGregor moved to East Dublin, but still, life is difficult, increasingly difficult. He lacks drive and motivation, is afraid of failure. At 20, Conor McGregor meets Dee Devlin, the one who will later be his lifelong companion. In her, Conor found the love and strength necessary to sharpen his claws and return more resolute than before to fight and to train. In other words, the love for this woman saved him and he is not shy to reveal it: “She would pack my bags, feed me even if we had little. She wanted me to train with serenity. She listened to my dreams, she gave me courage. If I became somebody, it’s because of Dee.” On the hardest days, it was his partner’s words that soothed his wounds and dried his sweat: “Come on Conor, you’re going to make it”.
The importance of his presence is never forgotten by Conor McGregor, he always remembers the difficulties of supporting himself with 188 Euros of unemployment welfare benefits, training hard every day. Even after entering the amateur MMA circuits the first five years are very hard, being paid 85 Euro per fight, surviving with 1500 Euro per year. The first fight saw him winning the 2nd round by TKO. The second match was the copy of the first. In the third match, Conor McGregor suffered his first defeat by submission. From that moment he identified in the grappling his Achilles’ heel. However, despite knowing his limits, McGregor did not change his idea of fight. On the contrary, he learned to stay in the octagon forcing the opponents to exchange openly in order to maximize his devastating weapon: striking. The incredible accuracy and timing of his striking became the trademarks of his victories. Referring to his abilities, Conor Mcgregor has always been very clear: “What you see is not natural talent, but just hard work. That’s my workout maniac ethic”.
On April 6, 2013, Conor McGregor made his debut by winning in the first round in MMA’s top promotion, the UFC, bringing his personal record to 13-2, with two Cage Warriors titles (featherweight and lightweight) on his back and the explosive potential of the champion. Despite being a newbie in the UFC, Conor McGregor set his own terms: “I’m Conor McGregor, I’m 20 years old and I’m the best featherweight out there”. This is one of the first glowing statements of his long career as a trash talker. McGregor in his career has won almost everything there is to win and has rewritten the rules of the game. He entered as an underdog and became the planetary face of a sport and a mindset. From the worse poverty to a lifestyle of unbridled luxury, Conor McGregor changed everyone’s perspective, ranking fourth on Forbes’ list of highest-paid athletes and becoming the first athlete in history to earn $1 billion in one year from sales of his whiskey. Trashing every imaginable records in pay-per-view sales, McGregor was arguably bigger than the UFC itself doing a better job than even Dana White in marketing the MMA promotion. On May 5, 2017, his partner Dee gave him the best gift of his life, making him the father of little Conor Jack Jr, hoping that the little kid would continue the legacy one day following the same legendary footsteps as his father.
Record after record, champion after champion, Conor McGregor shocked the world by defeating featherweight legend Jose Aldo with a devastating KO after only 13 seconds of the first round, putting an end to the Brazilian’s unbeaten era, and repeating himself by defeating lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, becoming the third athlete in history to win the title in two different weight classes and the first to hold two belts at the same time. “Champ Champ” as he loved to define it was a milestone that until the night before seemed imaginable for everyone. In-between Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez, the rivalry with Nate Diaz gave birth to two fights that are already legend. One fight lost and one won, just to remind everyone that it is not a matter of talent. It is pure hard work.
After that magical night in New York in 2016, the flamboyant Champ Champ McGregor, already multi-millionaire, decided that the world was not enough, the paradise was not enough. And, here we go down to hell, here we go with a senseless boxing match against arguably the greatest boxer ever, Floyd Mayweather. USD130 million to sell your fighting spirit in a bout where you have no chance. Embracing a sport which is not yours and facing an opponent who has not been beaten by much greater boxers, not to mention MMA fighters, just for money? Was that the price, Conor?
From a perfect marketing machine and incredibly skillful striking MMA fighter, Conor McGregor became a sort of frustrated whiskey seller embroiling in a new feud, this time against Dagestan lightweight champion Khabib ‘the Eagle’ Nurmagomedov, not only the strongest MMA lightweight fighter to ever walk in an Octagon but also somebody who was not born with a great sense of humor. The tone from the Irishman was sick and despicable including verbal attacks to the religious beliefs of Khabib. Making a summary of the skirmishes between the two would seem like a long shopping list. We all have in our eyes the dolly thrown from McGregor to the UFC bus carrying Khabib and other MMA fighters in Las Vegas as well as the undignified post-fight that saw Khabib throwing himself into the arena audience to take revenge on Dillon Danis, coach and friend of McGregor. That would be enough to qualify the relations between the two fighters. We all know as the fight turned up with Khabib devastating the whiskey seller, that seller that before selling his pride to Mayweather, we used to call him the Champ Champ, Conor McGregor.
Winning against the veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in about 40 seconds was not enough. Especially since Conor McGregor has then made people talk about him further with news events such as the not infrequent fights he took part in in Dublin, the famous punch against an old man, up to the latest appearances in the Amalfi coast, where he wandered around Positano heavily drunk, knocking over and breaking glasses and bottles as well as an alleged sex assault in France.
The madness of Conor McGregor is nothing but hunger in its most naked and raw form. The hunger that has always characterized him and that has made it possible for him to emerge from the difficulties that life has put in front of him, huge boulders in front of which the heart of anyone would have surrendered to a mediocre existence under the gray sky of Ireland. But Conor was not destined for mediocrity. And this is the reason why we all loved him so much and he has always got away with all his nonsense. Bowing his head to the green Irish fields was never his nature, and he, the Legend, the Symbol, found the four-leaf clover when no one would have bet two euros on that little kid with blond hairs and the toothless smile, no one would have thought that the bullied Conor McGregor would become the emblem of human redemption through work, love and ambition. May he be an inspiration to all of us who blame our failures on bad luck. Goodbye, Champ Champ!