Am I the only one who finds Conor McGregor insufferable?” asked one listener. We had just started Monday night’s show, which invariably included reflections on the UFC star’s TKO win over Dennis Siver that morning.
Another listener promptly wondered about his ‘cockiness’, comparing him unfavourably to Padraig Harrington and Brian O’Driscoll. The backlash had started.
I first met McGregor in a Newstalk studio nearly two years ago. He hadn’t made any real impressions on me at stage; I hadn’t seen much of him.
Forty minutes in his company changed things. He was utterly electric.
More so than any of the elite, brilliant people I’ve interviewed, McGregor’s presence creates energy. Here is a man who lives in the moment.
He talked that day about a miserable period as a plumber’s apprentice. He was the young kid they would send to the shops at lunchtime. All day he would dream about escape.
Getting up in the mornings was a chore. A career in the UFC was a ludicrous notion of course, as his own father told him, but he kept training and slogging and dreaming.
He told us about his diary. Every night, he reflects on that day’s training session, visualises ways to improve and makes notes.
Here’s the point; the man has steel. Those beautiful three-piece suits aren’t empty.
After the interview, as we walked through the office I remember remarking on how well he’d done so quickly.
“I haven’t even started yet,” he smiled. “It’s all been visualised. It’s all going to happen. Yeah baby” he laughed.
McGregor really doesn’t care what you think of him. He also has no obligations to team-mates to keep his mouth shut. Therefore he just does and says what he wants, which in a media-trained, PR-controlled vacuum, is a great thing. Admittedly sometimes he just wants attention.
But as for the notion that our Celtic sensibilities are rocked because one of our own is madly cocky, I don’t buy it. We’re not even remotely that pathetic.
What we hate is fakery. Overly contrived brashness isn’t our bag, particularly if actions don’t back up the talk.
But equally, fake humility is just as offensive. And painfully dull.
McGregor on that front is walking a tightrope. At times things get contrived. Through experience he has come to realise what pushes buttons.
Nor is the UFC machine doing him any favours. He has to deal with a lot of unimaginative questions, which essentially boil down to ‘Can you do more trash-talking about your opponents please?’ He happily obliges.
But look past that, don’t forget the steel.