Thursday 13 December 2018

Comment: Humiliated Conor McGregor fails to match up to national fuss in Vegas farce

 

Referee Herb Dean stops the fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov at the T-Mobile Arena. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Referee Herb Dean stops the fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov at the T-Mobile Arena. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Eamonn Sweeney

Eamonn Sweeney

One of the unloveliest figures in Irish life is the guy who likes to goad and torment others, but is outraged if they retaliate. We've all heard his plaintive cry "What did I do? I done nothing. What's up with him? I was only having the craic like."

That cry rang across Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning as Khabib Nurmagomedov followed his crushing victory over Conor McGregor by leaping into the crowd to attack members of the loser's entourage. Mayhem ensued as some of the Russian's entourage also indulged in a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Khabib, (type his second name a few times and you realise why everyone uses his first) said he'd been incensed by the way McGregor had talked before the fight. "I don't want people talk s**t about opponents, talk s**t about his father, religion. You cannot talk about religion, you cannot talk about nation."

But McGregor did talk about them. He told Khabib, for example, that there was, "a smell of sh**e off your da". It's hard to think of any sportsman who's been so consistently insulting to his opponents.

Ugliness is McGregor's USP, yet his pre-fight drivel was again hailed as masterly psychological warfare by his followers.

Those same people are now acting outraged by Khabib's post-fight behaviour and decrying what they describe as a black night for the UFC.

Tony Ferguson (left) and Anthony Pettis underline the brutality of the sport during the undercard. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Tony Ferguson (left) and Anthony Pettis underline the brutality of the sport during the undercard. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

What nonsense. The UFC revels in this kind of ruckus. Should the fighters meet again, footage of Saturday night's mayhem will figure prominently in the build-up.

McGregor's psychological masterstrokes also included attacking a bus containing members of Khabib's team. Khabib didn't seem to appreciate this brilliant example of Irish wit and it didn't knock a bit out of him mentally. He was a study in calm and composure while ruthlessly disposing of McGregor. Only afterwards did he let his emotions show.

Or did he? It's possible this was a staged rampage. Who can tell with the UFC? Whether scripted or not, such behaviour is grossly irresponsible because it incites eejits in the audience. The damage innocent bystander Sean Cox suffered at the hands of thuggish Roma fans has shown how dangerous this can be.

Irish pundits singling out Khabib for blame are like those cross-channel journos who, when Russian hooligans attacked their English rivals at Euro 2016, placed the blame entirely on Johnny Foreigner. McGregor, like the guys who commandeered the centre of Marseilles and dared anyone to take them on, found out what happens when you meet someone who takes things seriously enough to call your bluff.

You can see why OTT publicity plays such a big part in promoting the UFC. Watching the build-up to the main event, it doesn't take long to twig that this is essentially a sport aimed at dumbasses. Fair enough, the stupid need entertainment too, but there's not much in it for the rest of us. MMA is a sporting version of Love Island. With even tighter shorts. Just ridiculous.

And so to the big bout. The first round saw both men engage in a series of awkward grips that made them resemble a couple of movers trying to shift a wardrobe through a tricky doorway. The second consisted of Khabib lying on top of McGregor who stared blankly into the distance like someone enduring an underwhelming sexual experience for the sake of the money. It's the classic Vegas expression.

The end came as a merciful release. McGregor had been outclassed by someone who seemed far stronger, fitter and tougher. That mangy bear Khabib wrestled when he was a kid was probably a harder opponent.

Conor McGregor isn't some kind of menace to Irish society. Look at the officials and politicians who treated Emma Mhic Mathúna and women like her so abominably. Look at the rack renting slumlords of Dublin. They are people who can make you feel ashamed of Ireland. McGregor is just a young man trying to get paid.

But he's no elite sportsman and now he has got his comeuppance. He was humiliated and I've seldom seen anyone look as utterly exhausted as McGregor did at the end of a fight after which his opponent was able to leap into the crowd and engage in afters. Listening to our lad's pre-match rhetoric you'd swear he'd have to be carried out on his shield. Instead he surrendered meekly enough.

McGregor has had five fights in the last three years and lost three of them convincingly. That makes the national fuss look a bit silly at this stage.

Irish people weren't alone in being codded by MMA's flashy set of new clothes. There was excitable talk not long ago about Ronda Rousey being the world's best female athlete. She was no such thing and has now moved to Wrestlemania and its fixed fights.

Enforcer

You could see McGregor ending up there. Or perhaps enjoying a film career playing an enforcer named Red Mickey McPatrick who says things like, "don't bust my balls motherf***er" or "you can kiss my hairy Irish ass".

MMA is such a small world, you could call it the Mickey Mouse Association. Aspersions are cast on the worth of Katie Taylor's world titles because there 'aren't all that many professional women boxers'. But there's almost 1,500 of them in comparison to the 900 or so professional MMA fighters.

In a few years we'll wonder what all the hoo-hah was about.

Maybe the American connection had something to do with it. After all, Dublin is a city where there's a frenzy of excitement when a US doughnut stand opens in a suburban shopping centre.

Conor was our ticket to Vegas and a mention in Kanye West's tweets. It hardly mattered that his best performances came in press conferences.

There was a smell of sh**e off the whole thing.

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