You won’t find any shame here – I’m in love with Conor McGregor and I don’t know if I’ll ever shake it.
Even after waking up at 5am on Sunday for a dose of heartbreak as Nate Diaz submitted UFC’s man of the moment, I’m still well and truly on the McGregor hype train.
The thing is, I can’t quite explain why he’s got a hold on me like no-one else in sport. Not even Lionel Messi, Novak Djokovic, Rory McIlroy or Odell Beckham Jr – leading men in their field – can quite inspire the intrigue and fascination I have for McGregor. If I’m scrolling through Facebook and see something about the UFC featherweight champion, I can’t help but click the link. Even if it’s written by some God awful website (not naming names as we’re not perfect), I find myself reading paragraph after paragraph of him slating his next opponent, promising to batter Floyd Mayweather, paying tribute to his team and much more. On Instagram, it’s different pictures of him. YouTube, it’s video after video. I’m surprised his name doesn’t trend on Twitter every hour of the day. It’s easy to gorge on a McGregor feast.
And I’m pretty sure you feel the same way.
It all started for me ahead of his UFC 189 fight with Jose Aldo. Or at least it was the Brazilian fighter before he ran from the fight, as McGregor put it. The build-up to the fight was like little I’d seen before. A world tour and one McGregor insult after another. It’s no surprise Aldo eventually pulled out of the fight with a bruised rib – he must have been mentally broken from the Irishman’s pre-fight mind games. In came Chad Mendes and he was dispatched in the second round.
I’ll admit, that fight doesn’t stick in my head as much as UFC 194, where another fight with Aldo was granted and again McGregor stepped up the mental warfare. If you’re unfamiliar with recent pre-event build-ups, think of Muhammad Ali in his trash-talking prime or Sir Alex Ferguson with his mind games – McGregor is in the same league when it comes to his approach to getting in the brain of his opponent. You know you love someone when literally anything that comes out of their mouth brings a smile to your face.
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And he knows how to sell a fight too. UFC 194 brought the second largest gate in UFC history at $10,132,000. Just last week Dana White said UFC 196 would be a record breaker. That did fall short, going by reports at the start of this week, with a gate of $8.1million, but that could be explained by Rafael dos Anjos pulling out as McGregor’s original opponent before Diaz filled the spot just 11 days before the MGM Grand Garden Arena event.
The fact McGregor battered Aldo from pillar to post before UFC 194 probably makes up for the fact their bout lasted just 13 seconds, with the Brazilian knocked out by a big punch from the Irishman. It was at that moment I knew my love for McGregor was real. Anyone who can get me bouncing up and down on my bed at 5am deserves it – that’s why there’s a space in my heart for my girlfriend.. and McGregor.
Fair enough, he lost to Diaz at the weekend for a win the American thoroughly deserved. But does that change anything? Somehow, the man a lot of people also love to hate, has came out of it with more fans than if he’d won the thing. He tapped out on a Diaz submission and then showed some dignity and class many believe he’s lacked in previous events. There were no complaints about dos Anjos pulling out with 11 days to go. No crying about his opponent being the bigger man and better suited to fighting at 170 pounds. With so much of his neck on the line, it would have been easy for McGregor to disappear and allow Diaz his moment to gloat. The Californian fighter had been called a fajita by the Irishman, after all, in an obvious dig at his Mexican heritage. But like he did in the octagon, McGregor stood up, faced the criticism and hate head on and came out the other side with a bruised face, not a bruised ego.
You can bet he’ll be involved in UFC’s next biggest event as he is still the featherweight champion. You can bet he’ll still be trash talking his way from one pre-fight press conference to the next. And you can bet we’ll still be loving him even more win, lose or draw.
The Dubliner is UFC for me – and he thoroughly deserves to be the main draw in the sport.
I’m looking forward to a long, healthy and happy life with McGregor in it.