Sin's Trevor Murray gives us his tribute to the equally lauded and criticized Notorious, Conor McGregor.
It isn’t often that Irish sports personalities manage to captivate millions of people’s attentions, or that they can produce feats of physical and mental prowess to see themselves emerge as the kingpins of their respective fields. Yet that is precisely what Conor McGregor has managed to do in the sphere of MMA. In many respects then, though he is already an Irish sporting hero to many, he is greatly undervalued by so many others.
With his big lightweight bout against Eddie Alvarez in New York on 12 November, the Dubliner has another self-made chance to make history by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously – it’s difficult, then, to believe that too many corners of this country would like to see him fail.
Everyone knows just how big of a personality McGregor is, and yet because it is such a massive part of what has driven him to success, it can lose much of its mystique and its aura; the constant vibration of frightening motivation he exudes can sometimes lose its thundering thud and get lost as a humdrum, and that is a shame.
After all, the self-belief and assertive nature which are synonymous with him are two things which, perhaps, do not always immediately spring to mind when one thinks of your archetypal, clichéd Irish man. In many ways, the 28-year-old has shaken off the cultural constraints imposed upon him and has taken great pleasure in successfully re-branding himself.
In truth, the notion of the underdog is something a little more in tune with where one’s mind might subconsciously drift to in a conversation about Ireland on the sporting stage – and yet “The Notorious”, as he is known by his loyal fans, is no longer the embattled minnow; he is no longer the outsider and the feisty pauper – he is the king.
Too many people dismiss his skill as bloody barbarism; violent to the extreme of inciting hatred in the minds of those that watch it. Tune in to Niall Boylan on 4FM at your peril and you’ll hear plenty of misguided voices berate him for the way he has earned his wealth, fame and success. To concentrate McGregor down to that would be totally unjust and, frankly, ridiculous, because it glosses over what is at the heart of the immensity of his achievements.
He is so much more than those misgivings, something his commitment, determination and entrepreneurial showmanship attest to those who appreciate sport.
Though the reigning featherweight champion is no longer an unknown attempting to raze down his opponents to get to the pinnacle, he is nonetheless a man fighting off his competitors and it is arguably tougher attempting to stay at the top than it is to get there in the first place.
The story of his meteoric rise is one which has helped build the McGregor hype machine, and it is a well-built contraption, it must be said. It spluttered and wheezed a tad in part one of his brawl with Nate Diaz, but it appears to be running smoothly once again. The rags-to-riches tale he has brought to life through his victories, whether it has been through Cage Warriors or by knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds flat, has played a considerably catalytic role in his emergence as a truly great athlete.
However, it could be argued that what will cement his status is not how he fought his way to the top, but how he managed to remain there for a considerable spell – and to do so by fighting
regularly would probably mean all the more to him, as well as continuing to fuel his competitive streak. Jose Also stood unbeaten for 10 years, and that is a record which still has people in awe of his abilities – and McGregor might not ever have the chance to equal it, so that is something he will have to overcome by setting other records.
Until then, we can bask in his enigma, his fearlessness, his assured witticisms and his controlled aggression.
Image from Andrius Petrucenia, via Wikipedia