McGregor’s Muted Return to Vegas

The streets of Vegas would once have rung to the raucous sound of a new generation of young Irish men, seeing an echo of who they wanted to be in the form of Conor McGregor.

This weekend he is back but they are fewer in number and much quieter.

It is fifteen months since the fight against Khalib Nurmagomodev ended in a mass brawl. Before that, it was the fight against Floyd Mayweather that guaranteed the Crumlin fighter a lifetime of economic security but did little for his sporting legacy.

That legacy now, for what it might once have promised, has been tarnished by court appearances, rumour and accusation that follows McGregor relentlessly.

It is hard at times to separate the fighter, and within the world of MMA, he was one of the best, from the violent, trash-talking, comic book persona that he cultivated and which his fans adored.

At least in advance of Saturday night, he has dialled that down to a muted whisper.

He is showing respect and admiration for his opponent, the 36-year-old Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. It’s coming back in his direction too though the American’s reference to McGregor as “one of a dying breed of fighters”, is weighted with the sense that we are now in a wind-down phase for McGregor in the ring.

In years gone by he has won the RTÉ Sport Personality of the Year. He was consistently rated as among the most popular sportspeople in surveys from Teneo and Onside Sponsorship.

Those days are gone, as are the brash and at time offensive press conferences.

New year, new McGregor. He has vowed to kickstart the UFC’s 2020 but there will be fewer watching on Saturday than has been the case since his career began to blossom.

That says something about the fight game, about those of us who follow it and about our wider society. It is not the most comfortable look in the mirror of what works in the promotional sphere.


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