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Why ‘sportsmanship’ isn’t in Conor McGregor’s vocabulary

Conor McGregor has become one of the most famous sportsmen of recent years, as he has propelled the UFC to great height with his arrogance and combat style

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Last weekend saw Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor make history, in becoming UFC’s first fighter to hold two belts simultaneously when he dispatched Eddie Alvarez with a Second Round knockout. It is impossible to have missed of course, after social media has been packed with lines from the outspoken world champion that take arrogance to new extremes. Whatever happened to sportsmanship? Or is this a practice impossible to associate with ‘sports’ which rely on an individual’s aggression?

Regardless of whether you are or are not a fan of the extreme violence inherent in this mixed martial art (MMA), you must admire McGregor’s never-ending sales pitch for the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Inside the octagon chain-linked cage, he encapsulates the adrenaline-fuelled entertainment that people pay to watch and outside, he sells himself and the sport like nobody else with his incessant, pre-fight ‘trash talking’. The man is his own brand.

It is McGregor’s rhetoric arsenal and barbed put-downs, combined with his extra aggressive combat style, that have drawn millions of viewers to the sport and who now pay big sums to stream fight nights when he is stepping into the Octagon. In lots of UFC fights, not much actually happens: as the sole aim of the sport is to render your opponent unconscious, fighters remain wary, bobbing and fainting out of each other’s reach. This is what is fantastically exciting about McGregor and undoubtedly why he has made viewing figures go through the roof — he makes things happen.

Two and a half years ago, nobody knew who this plumber’s apprentice, from a Dublin suburb, was. In this time he has risen to the top by physically and, more importantly, rhetorically outdoing his opponents. The UFC champion’s level of psychological warfare on his opponent has been likened to that of history’s greatest fighter and famously eloquent ‘goader’, Muhammed Ali. Such bold rhetoric has created an aura around these fighters which makes them and their fans feel like failure is not even an option.

MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world and UFC is becoming its most valuable franchise. Not only is it a sport, it is a form of entertainment and McGregor has found the equilibrium between the two. His rise to the top has seen him become a media phenomenon and internet sensation due to the multitude of arrogant lines that drop from his mouth every time he gives an interview. His outspoken persona has won him such a huge fan base that he has outgrown the sport: the Conor McGregor brand is now so large that it personifies UFC itself.

So it is probably fair enough that after this weekend’s historic victory he is demanding ‘shares in the company’. “You want me to stick around, let’s talk”, he joked rather threateningly after the fight. Although definitely not strapped for cash, McGregor knows the tables have turned. He now sits in the driving seat and he clearly plans to use it to his advantage. Even the wrestling federation, WWE are knocking on the star’s door offering him, like they did to Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather in 2008, an opportunity for a one off appearance in return for vast amounts of cash. It is certain he has the personality, skills, and the chat to pull that off too.

Although it is probably widely regarded as uncommendable to act and speak in the way McGregor does the majority of the time, as a sportsman with a wide fan base, who can blame him. His persona has got him to where he is now in an astonishingly quick time and entertained a fair few people along the way. I say all credit to the lad.