Monday 25 June 2018

Ian O'Doherty: It's not McGregor's job to be a role model for your children - it's yours

Conor McGregor stands with his lawyer Jim Walden, right, and John Arlia during his arraignment in Brooklyn federal court. Photo: AP
Conor McGregor stands with his lawyer Jim Walden, right, and John Arlia during his arraignment in Brooklyn federal court. Photo: AP

SO was it all part of an elaborate ruse? Was it a publicity stunt which then spiralled spectacularly out of control?

Or was it simply a case of an immensely wealthy fighter, surrounded by yes-men and hangers-on, who has gone off the rails?

Frankly, when it comes to fight promotions, particularly fight promotions involving the murky world of MMA, anything is possible.

We’ve all seen the ridiculous posturing from boxers and the even more ridiculous posturing from UFC fighters.

So when the news first broke from New York that McGregor (right) had chucked a trolley through the window of the bus carrying some rival UFC fighters, people shrugged their shoulders.

Most of us assumed that McGregor and UFC supremo Dana White had cooked up yet another extravagant piece of theatre to push their sport onto the front pages of the papers.

12 November 2016; Conor McGregor celebrates after defeating Eddie Alvarez by second round TKO following their lightweight title bout at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden, New York. Photo by Adam Hunger/Sportsfile
12 November 2016; Conor McGregor celebrates after defeating Eddie Alvarez by second round TKO following their lightweight title bout at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden, New York. Photo by Adam Hunger/Sportsfile

If it was a stunt, it was one which has backfired spectacularly.

For starters, the Americans don’t mess around when it comes to the law, and as the pictures of the Crumlin scrapper being led on a perp walk out of a courtroom suggested, they won’t be offering him any special treatment – this isn’t a speeding fine in Blanchardstown, this is three counts of assault and one of criminal damage in a state where such behaviour can see you locked up for 11 years.

In many ways, nobody can ever self-destruct quite like a self-made man, and McGregor is, regardless of your view of either him or his sport, an entirely self-made man.

To use a cliché which would normally be associated with the type of NYPD cops who arrested him, he doesn’t play by the rules. That’s just as well from his perspective, because if he did play by the rules, he’d still be a plumber on a building site.

The sheen on McGregor’s crown has been tarnished in the last year, even among those who had been quick to defend him.

There’s no question that a lot of the flak directed his way had as much to do with an ignorance of his sport and the undeniable element of class-contempt.

But his behaviour in the run-up to the Mayweather fight saw him live down to the lowest expectations of the sniffy commentariat as he engaged in increasingly puerile racebaiting and mined a rich vein of deeply unpleasant boorishness.

With this controversy arriving so soon after the national debate provoked by those rugby players in the North, there have been lots of broader, earnest conversations about the role of sportspeople in society, and the obligation they have to portray a good image for their young fans. This position is, of course, nonsense.

Any parent who ever thought a sportsperson could, or even should, be a good role model for their kids needs to look at their own parenting skills rather than criticise the behaviour of some immensely wealthy, immensely pampered young man who finds that they have a gift which, through hard work and luck, can be parlayed into a lucrative career.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 13: Conor McGregor looks on as money rains down during the Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Conor McGregor World Press Tour event at Barclays Center on July 13, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 13: Conor McGregor looks on as money rains down during the Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Conor McGregor World Press Tour event at Barclays Center on July 13, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

This position seems to wallow in a trough of its own wilful ignorance and it’s damaging for all concerned, not least the athletes who wonder why they have a responsibility towards strangers’ kids, and the kids themselves, who are shocked to discover their idols have feet of clay and a head full of rocks.

For starters, most elite athletes are incredibly selfish, driven and single-minded – because they have to be.

The amount of work McGregor put in to creating his own personal myth and reaching the levels of highly tuned physical perfection required demands an almost pathologically obsessive and self-obsessed streak, where everything is geared towards making them the best that they can be.

Once they reach a certain level of success, they are cocooned by their management and live a life behind walls– either the walls of their

Conor McGregor and family. Pic: Instagram / Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor and family. Pic: Instagram / Conor McGregor

mansion or the walls erected by their handlers.

We treat athletes differently to how we treat other people precisely because they are different. But the only thing we should ever try to emulate, or suggest that children should emulate, is their dedication to their craft, not how they live their private life.

The old phrase which suggests you should never meet your heroes has now become moot, because  the advent of social media means people can meet their heroes on Twitter or Instagram at any time of the day or night, and out of that familiarity comes an inevitable contempt.

A lot of the outrage at McGregor’s behaviour is perfectly reasonable, but much of it has been as fake as a Dana White press conference.

You could argue that he has brought his sport into disrepute, but when one considers the sport involved, it’s hard to make that argument stand up.

Instead, we see people retreating behind the old canard that he has a responsibility towards young people – but who on earth would even want someone like McGregor as a role model for their kids?

He is, after all, a guy who works in a dirty business.

His job dictates that he has to pretend to be crazier than everyone else.

If, as now seems likely, he has begun to believe his own hype and the lines between Conor McGregor the man and Conor McGregor the industry have become blurred, that’s something he needs to discuss with his team and, from the looks of things, a team of top shrinks.

We don’t own athletes and they don’t owe us anything other than the understanding that they will do their very best when they get on the pitch or into the ring or the octagon.

For anyone, least of all a parent, to suggest otherwise indicates a complete lack of understanding of what it takes to become a top-level sportsperson.

Yes, it’s certainly nice when they’re not overtly, actively hideous, and the Anthony Joshua/ Wladimir Klitschsko fight was a perfect example of two elite athletes behaving with admirable class and dignity.

But insisting that these people, even the ones whose posters adorn your child’s bedroom, are somehow even tangentially responsible for that child’s conduct is almost verging on a dereliction of parental duty.

Anyway, he goes by the self-declared moniker of ‘Notorious’.

The clue, as they say, is in the nickname.

McGregor let his family down. Not yours.

Online Editors

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