Saturday 23 March 2019

Eamonn Sweeney: 'It's all gone a bit flabby and decadent as McGregor turns his attention to whiskey and philosophy'

Conor McGregor. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor McGregor. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

At a time when Pádraig Harrington has become the non-playing captain of the European Ryder Cup team, Conor McGregor is in danger of becoming the non-fighting fighter.

The six-month suspension imposed on him for his part in the fracas following the world title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in Las Vegas means the Dubliner will have had just four bouts in three years, losing two of them.

By contrast, in the period from December 2012 to December 2015 which culminated in McGregor wresting the world title from Jose Aldo, he fought eight times. That kind of schedule was supposed to be the MMA way, giving it an edge over boxing whose top fighters were prone to long spells of inactivity. Hence the stripping of the lightweight championship from McGregor when he failed to defend it within the requisite time period.

At this point I could interject some well meaning observation about how the man might learn from this lay-off. But learning isn't really his thing. His reaction to the suspension was to boast about how he'd managed to "land the final blow of the night on my opponent's blood relative," describing said blow as though it represented some kind of personal triumph.

In reality, anyone who thinks the fight against Nurmagomedov was anything other than a horrible humiliation for McGregor has probably been drinking too much of that godawful whiskey the man spends so much time promoting these days.

There's something incredibly unattractive about this conviction that he's had the last laugh. He sounds for all the world like a young lad boasting about getting a sneaky belt in at someone before running out the chipper door. It's a dispiriting illustration of how Conor McGregor sees the world.

Oddly enough, those who continue to insist that MMA is a legitimate sport deserving of greater respect should actually be pleased about the suspensions and fines imposed on Nurmagomedov and McGregor. From the point of view of the sport's detractors, the carry-on before and after the fight merely confirmed their worst suspicions about the UFC. What would you expect from an ass only a kick?

There was even the odd cynical suggestion that the post-fight brawl might have been staged to drum up interest for a rematch between the pair. The sanctions against them enable that theory to be discounted. This was not a WWE style scripted donnybrook, but something which got badly out of hand and caused significant reputational damage to a sport which was not exactly the cynosure of the public eye as it was.

So if you're someone who feels that MMA gets a bad rap from outsiders, you should have seen this as a good week for the sport. Though this does place the Irish UFC fan in a bit of a bind given the slavish tendency of many of them to justify everything McGregor does. What will they do if it turns out that the fortunes of mixed martial arts and Conor McGregor are not intertwined after all? What if the long-term prosperity of one and the short-term benefit of the other are mutually exclusive?

Back when McGregor beat Aldo it looked as though the exaggerated claims for his status as a great Irish sporting figure might end up being justified. There was a relentlessness and focus about him which demanded respect. Things have got a bit flabby and decadent since then. At the moment we appear to have reached the Be Here Now phase of the saga.

With no opponent to taunt, CMG is kept busy on Twitter propounding the kind of astute philosophy which has made both himself and John Kavanagh intellectual gurus for a generation. "I think we must break it down deeper than this. The feeling of 'Wanting' only leads to more 'wanting.' I prefer the feeling of 'having!' The feeling of abundance. I HAVE! Have and you always will." The argument that you should have things before you want them displays McGregor's abiding interest in quantum mechanics and theories of multi-dimensional reverse time causality which has seen him compared to the great Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger.

He's also letting his fans know that someone has compared the whiskey to "the lush emerald fields of Ireland rolling thru my kitchen". I'm looking forward to getting hold of a bottle myself. There's a growth of moss in the yard that badly needs clearing.

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