Why is Conor McGregor so popular?
WORDS BY JOSHUA WOOLLER
Conor McGregor is probably the most famous sportsman in the world at the moment, perhaps the most famous combat sportsman of all time. In two weeks, he will fight possibly the greatest boxer of all time in Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
For all the similarities between Mayweather and McGregor, what the world tour showed if nothing else, is that most fans will firmly be supporting the Irishman come August 26th.
Why is that? Why do so many fans want Mayweather to lose and McGregor to win? After all, both are outstanding gloaters, both discuss how much money they are making and both present as the totally self-centred individuals. For all this, McGregor commands almost universal admiration of MMA fans, and has probably popularised the sport even more than UFC legends Chael Sonnen, Ronda Rousey and Georges St. Pierre.
In my view there are three main reasons why Conor achieved such stratospheric popularity. It is the combination of these reasons that enables Conor’s fans to overcome the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ that characterises the antagonism towards Floyd Mayweather.
1. Conor McGregor is funny
Humour is the best way to get a crowd on side and Conor McGregor’s ‘trash talk’ works because it is funny. From telling Urijah Faber that he looks like a “50 year old retired skateboarder” to mocking Nate Diaz for being unable to “count to five”, Conor’s quick wit tempers his ostensible arrogance. For a crowd, McGregor’s comedy succeeds because he is -aware that pre-fight promotion often seems contrived and inauthentic.
Mayweather on the other hand has not been able to enhance his insults with the same comic timing as McGregor. Instead, they come off as rehearsed, and stale. No more was that more apparent than in the recent world tour, in which Mayweather recycled the same one liners at each of the four press conferences. To his credit, though, Mayweather has played well the role of a ‘heel’ throughout his entire career.
2. Conor McGregor is humble
For all his bluster, McGregor has faced defeat. Of course, his most famous defeat at the hands of Nate Diaz will go down as one of the greatest upsets in MMA history. Immediately following the fight Conor faced the media, admitted he had misjudged his opponent, and confessed he had been outclassed by a far more “efficient” Diaz. British boxing legend Chris Eubank described Conor’s humility in defeat the “mark of a true champion”. He did not shy away from this defeat either, insisting on a rematch at 170 lbs, a far cry from his usual fighting weight at 145 lbs. Against the advice of his coach John Kavanagh, McGregor would defeat Diaz by decision the second time they met.
Of course, McGregor is famously noted to have been on social welfare not four years ago in his hometown of Dublin. Though, what speaks to how humble McGregor really is was his admission after defeating Eddie Alvarez to become two-division champion of the UFC was that he was “scared” that he was about to become a father.
3. McGregor “backs it up”
McGregor slept the greatest pound for pound UFC fighter in 13 seconds. Jose Aldo reigned as the UFC featherweight champion for 10 years. In fact, he was the only UFC featherweight champion in the company’s history. McGregor has consistently delivered on his promises to defeat opponents with stunning accuracy. He boasted he would knock out Chad Mendes, he did. He said he would knock out Jose Aldo in one round, he did it in 13 seconds. Everyone was surprised when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez with seeming ease. Conor McGregor wasn’t.
Every boxing expert thinks he has no chance against Floyd Mayweather. Are we wrong to doubt Conor McGregor?