UFC 229: The Character of McGregor

The best part of UFC 229 was Derrick Lewis’ fight with Alexander Volkov. Lewis was getting absolutely blasted by the Russian, I was watching the odds and after round two Lewis was at 6.5 to win the fight. Lord knows what he would have been by the last round after suffering a further onslaught. Lewis then must have got quite bored and decided to finish the fight in Hollywood style. His right hook made the Russian’s head pirouette in the air. His post match interview is 24 carat gold. 

Onto the main article. I don’t know what to make of Conor McGregor. Every time you see him you are made aware of his Trumpian arrogance. He actually describes himself as ‘the King’, seemingly without irony. From him one can expect lots of mouth, threatening his opponents and confirming he will win the fight before it has happened. He also vaunts about his wealth, endlessly. All of that stuff with the bus is beyond cringeworthy. On top of this he does that walk with his shoulders when he gets into the ring, which does him little justice.

These are not endearing qualities. If they were present in the man who lives across the street from me, I probably would not say hello to him in the mornings, much less desire to have a conversation with him.

But Conor is an exceptional beast. The man draws himself to you with his brutish good looks, witty one liners, his strident patriotism, even his accent is true wonder to behold. He knows you can’t but be interested in him. Unlike Trump, who was a millionaire by the time he was 8, McGregor has clearly worked like an absolute lunatic to get where he is now. And you know with MMA fighters and boxers, their grotesque levels of affluence are at least partly justified by the nature of their work.

 

By this I mean, the brutality of getting pounded repeatedly to the head, often until the brain actually loses consciousness, known in the business as a K.O.  If I said to you

“Right, I’m gonna offer to bash you around a bit, clobber you around the head a few times. You won’t die. But you might be a bit brain damaged. What’s your price?”

At the risk of being presumptuous I would claim that you would also think that your own brain probably ranks among the most valuable objects in your life. There can be no price.

That’s just one of many, many reasons that MMA fighters are absolute freaks.

Aside from the sheer bravery of fighting humanity’s most lethal machines, I also think about how much labour, how much gym-drudgery, and indomitable cardio any fighter of this level must endure. The thought of going to the gym four times a week is enough to fill me with a cloud of dread and anxiety. 

McGregor clearly loves what he is doing, which he often says himself. I take a lot of satisfaction from hearing from people that they love what they are doing. From train drivers through to teachers, through to UFC fighters. This is one of the most satisfying triumphs there is. If you have found something you truly love, you have navigated through the labyrinth. And we all know how tedious, depressing and seemingly inescapable that labyrinth can be. Keep going folks, because you never know what might be waiting at the end of it.

After the second round you see Conor smiling despite being mutilated by Khabib. It was like watching a grizzly bear having its way with a fish. It looked like the referee was going to call it off, but somehow McGregor pulled through.

He cheated continually, locking his toes in the fence and he threw a knee off the ground. It soon became quite obvious these were the actions of somebody who knew that he wasn’t going to win the fight. By the fourth round he had nothing left to offer and was submitted with a rear naked neck-crank.

 

His tweet was a great thing to see. He didn’t moan or whinge, despite the fact he was attacked by some cowardly yobs unawares after the fight (I do suspect that some retaliation might be in the post). I expected him to be a bad loser, but he couldn’t have been more humble in defeat. 

Regarding Khabib, I initially wanted him to win, him being the quiet and modest one, fighting against an annoying peacock sponsored by Monster. But his actions after the fight were beneath dignity. Could he not simply have used his unfathomable winnings to get a hit on the dissenters from the crowd? I’m sure he knows many guys who would bite his hand off to do that for him. 

It would have been great for him to just take the belt, have a chat with Rogan and say ‘Who’s the cocky one now?’ or “Oi Conor your whiskey tastes like shite.” But he wasted a killer opportunity to put an inferior fighter in his place after a dazzling victory.

I sense that in a way, Khabib might have been doing a Zinedine, knowing that that was his last fight. Flying out of the Octagon to assault someone who said some nasty things about him that hurt his feelings (whatever happened to the good old phrase ‘Punching, kicking me and elbowing me repetitively in the head may cause me cerebral damage, but words will never hurt me?’). Like putting gravy in the photocopier on your last day of work; attempting to sign off in style. With a record like 28-0-0 who the hell needs to even think about a cage again?

Conor, however will be back, I’m sure of that.  And I will probably be just about supporting him.