McGregor. He’s so hot right now. McGregor.
Back in July 2016 it was reported that the UFC had been sold to the WME-IMG Group for something in the region of $4bn. A huge sum of money – this is the biggest franchise sale in sports history.
Some journey for an organisation that was once described as ‘human cockfighting’.
And when asked about that sale and the number behind it, UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor said this:
“I think I played a nice role in that number. What was it? It was estimated at two billion at one stage before I came along. I remember when I first started here, it was a two-billion dollar franchise. I remember hearing that much. And now, since I came on, it’s four billion. And the year before it was sold is my year, numbers-wise. I played a nice role in that too, so the number motivated me.”
McGregor’s rise to the top of the UFC game has mirrored that of the organisation itself. Once scratching a living as a professional Mixed Martial Artist on the UK and Ireland circuit, he is now arguably the biggest draw in the sport – and one of the biggest in the entire sporting world.
But is he right – Is a large portion of that $4bn pie down to his contribution? Or is it all just hype?
The notorious Conor McGregor
McGregor’s MMA journey began in his native Dublin when he took up kickboxing and joined a boxing club at an early age.
When he left school, he began an apprenticeship in plumbing while training part-time in MMA. And aged 20, he decided to chase his dream and became a professional Mixed Martial Artist.
By the time he signed with the UFC in 2013, he had an MMA record of 12-2. And despite tearing his ACL early in his UFC career, he went on a six-fight winning streak which earned him a Featherweight title shot against Brazilian Jose Aldo – a man who hadn’t lost a fight in the Octagon in over 10 years.
McGregor made history in that fight – becoming champion by recording the fastest knockout in UFC title fight history when he put Aldo’s lights out after just 13 seconds.
He then followed that up with another historic win at Madison Square Garden at UFC 205 when he owned UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez. Owned…no – he made Alvarez look like an amateur. In doing so, he has become the first man in UFC history to hold title belts at two different weights at the same time.
Is McGregor all style no substance?
His trash-talk and brash confidence at weigh-ins and press conferences have made him a love/hate figure. And despite his success in the octagon, some people still question his merits as a world class mixed martial artist.
I’m not going to pass judgement on his technical fighting skills. But at the very least, any man who is prepared to step into the arena of combat and take a hit deserves respect. And someone who does it repeatedly, comes out on top more often than not and makes history while at it, should not be taken lightly.
Behind McGregor’s bravado is a man filled with determination and desire to become his absolute best. He is in possession of a fire and a focus that has driven him to the top of the game. We don’t see the hours, days, weeks, months of hard work; the innovation he is prepared to embrace; the curiosity for new techniques. We only see the fancy suit, the sunglasses and the swagger.
He comes across as prickly and antagonistic in the run-up to a fight. But he has tapped into something important – he knows how to generate pay-per-view buys. In reality, he is an extremely motivated and hungry athlete who won’t let anything stand in his way.
After his Featherweight title win, he moved up in weight to fight Nate Diaz in what ultimately became a two-fight double-header and one of the most talked about UFC confrontations in a long time.
He took on Diaz to test himself at a heavier weight and use the opportunity as a stepping stone to make history. And it worked. He has made his mark on the sport and then some. he has done exactly what he set out to do.
This guy is a real character
Before a fight, he becomes a character. A character who has mastered the art of getting people to buy pay-per-views and talk about him. A character who has generated a huge amount of buzz.
But there is substance behind the style. And a hell of a lot of it. His coach John Kavanagh probably sums it up best when asked about McGregor’s motivation:
“Conor is not driven by money or fame; he is driven by contest and competition.”
He is renowned for training at all hours of the day and is constantly trying new techniques in order to improve. He is curious about new ways of doing things and is not prepared to accept the status quo just because ‘that’s the way things are done here.”
No – he is a disruptor and an innovator. And if something doesn’t work, he discards it.
One example of this is how he studies and adapts animal movements into his training schedule.
“’I’m fascinated by it so I study all forms of movement, animals because they are graceful and beautiful, I just enjoy movement as a whole. But anyone who is doing anything; I will analyse a man walking down the street to see how they carry themselves. I feel you can tell a lot about someone by the way they carry themselves so I try to move cleanly and efficiently.”
Does McGregor have the Iron Qualities?
So what does this all mean. Does Conor McGregor have the Iron Qualities? Can we look at him and say ‘there is a man who has true masculine values’? Let’s compare what McGregor has said over the years with the Iron Qualities checklist.
“Nothing good ever comes from worrying or sitting there feeling sorry for yourself….keep positive and keep pushing forward and things will turn good.”
“You need to appreciate your surroundings and be grateful for it, and that’s when good things happen. To have that bitterness and negativity, that’s when things go bad. I think the fact that I appreciate everything and that I’m grateful for the things around me, that’s why it’s going so good for me.”
“There’s only one thing that’s impossible to beat…a man that doesn’t give up.”
(on losing to Nate Diaz) “I’ll handle this loss like a champion. I will not shy away from it. I will not make excuses for it. I lost in there. There was errors. But errors can be fixed if you face them head on.”
(fighting is) “in my head 24/7. I don’t think about nothing else. I’m curiously fascinated with it. Everything in my life is related to this.”
What’s the price of success?
Ok – he talks the talk. He has the Iron Qualities and the results of his actions are there for all to see. But the question remains – is Conor McGregor responsible for the UFC being valued at $4bn? Is he worth that much?
I say no.
McGregor is a study in what it takes to succeed. We can all learn something from his positive attitude and approach to life.
- He has an insatiable hunger and determination to succeed
- He doesn’t back down from a challenge or make excuses
- He has a curiosity that drives him to innovate and improve
- He is driven towards his goal with a single-minded focus
$4bn? He has the Iron Qualities. And that is priceless.