Wednesday 21 February 2018

Conor McGregor should sit down, shut up, forget the distractions and return to the UFC Octagon where he belongs

Conor McGregor: Notorious
Conor McGregor: Notorious

Luke Brown

Once again, Conor McGregor has made headlines for all the wrong reasons after the two-weight UFC world champion burst into the cage during a Bellator event in Dublin before attacking a referee.

Shocking video taken from the 3 Arena shows McGregor almost coming to blows with the respected official Mark Goddard, as well as slapping a commissioner when asked to return to his seat.

Completely out of control and most definitely in the wrong, even McGregor’s staunchest supporters would struggle to defend his conduct. It is a bad look for the 29-year-old superstar and a bad look for the sport of MMA, too.

McGregor’s decision to storm the cage is just the latest in a long line of controversies to engulf the enigmatic Irishman since he last stepped foot in the UFC Octagon, defeating Eddie Alvarez in a stunning performance to become the first ever man to simultaneously hold titles in two weight divisions.

Tomorrow marks a year to the day that McGregor last fought in the UFC and he is beginning to stray dangerously close to earning his money as an entertainer first, mixed martial artist second.

After all, since McGregor last made headlines for all the right reasons at UFC 205, he has:

  • Sparked a racism row by instructing Floyd Mayweather to “dance for me, boy,” before landing himself in more trouble by insisting he wasn’t a racist because he is “black from the belly button down.”
  • Lost to Mayweather in the tenth round of their record-breaking boxing match, written off as a ‘circus’ by a number of pundits and fans.
  • Been escorted from the arena at UFC Gdansk for effectively (and illegally) acting as a fourth cornerman for his team-mate Artem Lobov’s fight against Andre Fili.
  • And then immediately landed himself in another row by using homophobic language to describe Fili while consoling Lobov after his eventual defeat.

What links all of the above? All of those controversies and rows took place in the time since he stepped away from the Octagon and decided to instead concentrate on ‘building his brand’ – whether that be by losing impossible contests to superior opponents in other sports, or by releasing a film about his life, or stealing the attention at other people’s moment in the spotlight.

That’s not to say McGregor wasn’t a controversial figure before November 2016, of course, and his problematic language – particularly in regards to race – has been well documented.

And yet McGregor was often able to bounce back from those scandals by dialling down the pre-fight bluster and bravado and allowing his fists and feet to do the talking in the Octagon.

The rude and offensive language was simply the result of occasionally pushing things too far in an attempt to sell pay-per-view numbers, we were told. Away from the glare of hundreds of cameras at a pre-fight press conference, McGregor was in fact a more humble and introspective man.

Indeed, that’s what made him so popular. He was the classic example of a local boy done good, a relatable young man who had struggled working a dead-end job he had no passion for and so had decided to fully commit himself to greatness.

“There is no talent here, this is hard work. This is an obsession,” he is so fond of saying.

But McGregor was not attempting to sell a fight when he burst into the cage to shove Goddard on Friday night. He was unaware he was being filmed when he decided to call Fili a “f*****”. And ahead of the Mayweather fight he decided to stoke up the growing race row before finally issuing an apology.

No, now McGregor is strictly in the business of selling himself – outrageous and unrepentant, refusing to take even a moment to reflect on his actions. Since stopping Alvarez he has eroded so much of the support and goodwill he had taken years to build-up, and Friday’s wild outburst suggests that is only going to continue.

McGregor’s return to the UFC is supposed to be an event. He is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and talented sportspeople on the planet and has almost single-handedly dragged the sport of MMA into the big-time. But if he continues acting in this way, people will be tuning in to see him lose, not win. And that’s if they even bother tuning in at all.

Independent News Service

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